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Ma-speaking peoples of Northern R 

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Plioto Ii. ir. iinith. 

The Superior Ila Type. 
(See p. 59.) 

Notice the three cuts on the temple (a tribal mark), the white impande, 
the tall head-dress (only partly shown), and the birds' feathers. 














Qearopidr], dvrjrolaiv avialaroov iroKiwv irep, 
oi'd^v dtppacTOTepoj Tr^Xerat voov avSpdiTroiaiv. 




1 920 









As we hope that this work may be taken as a serious con- 
tribution to African ethnography, it is perhaps best that we 
should present our credentials and describe briefly our 
methods of research and the principles that have guided us. 

When we entered the Ila country — the one in 1902 and 
the other at the end of 1904 — neither was a stranger to 
African life. Mr. Smith had served his Church for four 
years in South Africa and knew the Suto and (to some 
extent) the Xosa languages. Mr. Dale, after serving in 
the Matabele and Bechuanaland campaigns and the Boer 
War, was for three years (1902-4) Assistant Native Com- 
missioner of the Wankie district in Southern Rhodesia, 
knew the Tebele language, and had also travelled among 
the Tonga people on the north bank of the Zambesi. 

Finding ourselves among a people that were almost 
unknown to the outside world, we threw ourselves into a 
study of their language and customs, our motive being, 
not the production of a book of this kind, but simply that we 
might prosecute our callings as missionary and magistrate 
to the best advantage. For whether one is to teach or 
govern, one's first duty is to understand the people. In 
the course of years we found our stock of information 
accumulating, and in 1909 we determined to collaborate in 
a book that should record the results of our research. From 
that time we continued our investigations deliberately with 
that end in view. From first to last, this book is, then, the 
result of some thirteen years' first-hand study. 

The completion and publication of the book have been 
delayed by the War. When news of its outbreak reached 
US, Mr. Dale imrnediately left the farm which he had been 



occupying since leaving the British South Africa Company's 
service in 1910, and obtained a commission in the King's 
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Mr. Smith returned to 
England in the following spring and went at once to the 
Front as chaplain. Captain Dale was severely wounded at 
Loos in the September advance (1915), and after recovery 
was invalided out of the army and returned to the British 
South Africa Company's service. Our manuscript was 
complete as to material but somewhat chaotic in form in 
19 15, and revision for publication had to wait until a fitting 
time. Then further delay ensued as conditions were not 
propitious for the publication of such a work. 

We trust that the co-operation of missionary and magis- 
trate may prove to be as successful as we have hoped. For 
ourselves — without wishing to prejudge our own attempt — 
we think the conjunction a happy one. It is commonly 
said that clergymen see the best in human nature and 
lawyers the worst ; if they put their heads together they 
should be able to see life whole. Too often in Africa there 
is a certain amount of restraint between the government 
officials and the missionaries. Such should not be, and 
we are happy in the knowledge that between us nothing of 
the kind ever existed. Working along different lines and 
using different methods, we recognised that our aim was one, 
and were able cordially and loyally to support each other. 
And then working in our different spheres, as might be 
expected, we became familiar with different aspects of the 
life of the Ba-ila. On his constant peregrinations through 
the district and in his court, the magistrate was in touch 
with many things that did not come much in the way of 
the missionary, who, however, in his more stationary life 
had his own advantages. After Mr. Dale left the govern- 
ment service in 19 10 and settled on a farm within sight of 
the Kasenga Mission, we had very frequent opportunities 
for consultation. 

The field was carefully mapped out between us. The 
sections for which Mr. Smith is primarily responsible are 
those marked with an asterisk under the chapter heading ; 
Captain Dale's are marked with two asterisks; and the 
chapters in which both have had a share are marked * ** 


or ** *, according as one or the other predominates. But 
every chapter has been revised by us both in all the stages 
of writing, and the information collected by the one care- 
fully checked by the other, so that we may claim the colla- 
boration to have been of the closest. 

We have no need to point out to those who have preceded 
us in this line the many difficulties we have had to face, 
and only those know the difficulties who have essayed the 
same task. The Ba-ila do not readily communicate to a 
foreigner their ideas and customs ; direct interrogation 
often fails — generally fails, indeed, except where complete 
confidence has been won beforehand — for they either profess 
to know nothing or deliberately give misleading answers. 
It is only by tactfully leading conversation in the desired 
direction and not pressing it too far that one succeeds in 
getting information in this way. We have been assiduous 
note-takers, not trusting to our memories, and our book 
is partly the outcome of many hundreds of conversations 
recorded at the time and carefully collated. Most of what 
we have written about we have witnessed, and our impres- 
sions were noted at once. In some instances where we 
could not' see the ceremonies we were able to induce trust- 
worthy men to dictate us descriptions of them. Neither 
missionary nor magistrate can afford, as passing travellers 
sometimes have allowed themselves, to intrude upon the 
sanctities of native life, and hence there are some things 
about which we can report only at second hand, but in all 
such cases we have been careful to get the most reliable 

We aimed at securing a large collection of native texts. 
The Ba-ila had no written literature ; when we knew them 
first their language had never been reduced to writing ; and 
so we had to obtain these texts in one of two ways— either 
by writing them ourselves from dictation or, in later years, 
by employing the assistance of young men trained in the 
mission schools. By far the greater part of our collection 
was written down b}^ ourselves. 

Of our assistants, one, a true Mwila, lived with Mr. 
Smith for ten years and became very expert in this depart- 
ment. After having a long conversation with a friendly 


chief, in the course of which some custom had been discussed, 
we would instruct this young man, Kayobe, to write down 
the substance at once, and with training he became able to 
do this with great accuracy ; then, if some points were found 
obscure, Kayobe would have further interviews with the 
chief — who might be more frank with him alone — and bring 
us the record in writing. Sometimes he would write us 
spontaneously a long account of something he had known 
or had discovered for himself. Such accounts, and indeed 
all we received from him, were carefully checked with others. 
His help has been invaluable to us, and we are glad to put 
it on record. 

Our other native helper is a son of Sezongo II. of Nanzela, 
a very intelligent young man, who, besides writing down 
notes on customs, collected from old chiefs and wrote down 
a history of his father's people. 

We have aimed throughout at drawing information from 
the old men. We became on friendly terms with many of 
the elderly chiefs, and in particular with Mungalo of Kasenga, 
who gave us a great deal of information, and whose death 
was not only a loss to our book, but was felt with great 
personal sorrow by us both. None of our native informants, 
we may mention, spoke English. 

These native texts we desired to publish in parallel 
columns with an English translation, in imitation of Dr. 
Calloway's Religious System of the Amazulu, but this has 
not been found possible. We have quoted the translation 
largely, and often where no quotation marks are employed 
our descriptions follow it closely. 

Another source of information drawn upon by us is the 
records of cases tried in the magistrates' courts. With the 
permission of His Honour the Administrator (whose interest 
in our work we gratefully acknowledge) and with the hearty 
co-operation of the officials, we were able to examine and 
analyse these records. We have quoted many of the cases, 
changing the names of the parties concerned ; but apart 
from these illustrations the records were of great assistance 
in setting us on the track of customs and ideas we did not 
know of before. 

Our work, it will be seen, is not prepared for ordinary 

PREFACE ■ xiii 

domestic consumption. We have endeavoured to describe 
the hfe as it is in actuality, and any one attempting this 
with frankness must be prepared to see his work confined 
to a comparatively narrow circle of readers. While not 
professing to be scientifically trained anthropologists, we 
have written with such experts in mind, and if we have 
succeeded in giving them any valuable material for their 
studies we shall be glad. 

At the same time we wish to say that we have studied 
the Ba-ila, not as curious zoological specimens, but as fellow 
men and women ; our interest in them is far from being 
academic. We have devoted some of our best years to their 
improvement. We believe them to be a people of great 
capacity, who with sympathetic, patient, firm guidance 
may advance very far. And in writing our book we have 
had our successors in view, whether magistrates or mission- 
aries. They will take up their labours at a more advanced 
point than that at which we could commence ours ; we 
trust their success will be proportionately greater than ours. 
It is a doctrine commonly enough taught in these days, but 
(if we may assume the preacher's gown for a moment) we 
would like here to emphasise its truth on all who follow us. 
We would say to them : learn to look at the world through 
the eyes of your people, make their language and ways of 
thinking as much as possible your own, saturate yourself 
in their folklore. If your studies in preparation for your 
present task have had to do with law and theology, let 
your mind now be given to the people, and study them with 
an ardour equal at least to that you gave to your professional 
studies. And withal, do not forget that these Ba-ila are flesh 
and blood and soul as you and we are. It is to help you 
and so help the Ba-ila that we have chiefly written this book. 

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the help we have received 
from colleagues in the Mission and Service and from others, 
either in the way of items of information, suggestions, or 
photographs : Mrs. E. W. Smith and Mrs. Price ; the Revs. 
Arthur Baldwin, W. Chapman, J. W. Price, J. A. Kerswell ; 
Messrs. F. V. Worthington (late Secretary for Native 
Affairs), Macaulay, NichoUs, Handley, Heath, Ryan, Earee, 
Daffarn, Lynch. From the Directors of the British South 

VOL. I h 


Africa Company we have received encouragement and 
assistance. Dr. Rivers of Cambridge and Sir H. H. Johnston 
have kindly read over parts of our manuscript and favoured 
us with suggestions. Professor Conway of Manchester Uni- 
versity translated those few sections that we thought better 
to put into Latin. To all these we offer our thanks. 

The small community of British resident in the Kafue 
districts of Northern Rhodesia has a fine record in the War — 
proportionate to its numbers, a record second to none. The 
Administration was embarrassed by the numbers of officials 
who were eager to leave their posts to join the fighting forces ; 
many returned to England for the purpose, or joined the 
expedition under Major Boyd Cunningham that was sent to 
the German East Africa frontier, an expedition that com- 
prised almost every man among the settlers who had not 
already enlisted in other units. Those who remained, while 
their friends were moving amidst stirring events elsewhere, 
did equally valuable service in quietly carrying on their 
work of controlling the erstwhile turbulent tribes. It is 
a fine testimony, alike to the loyalty of the natives and to 
the character of the British South Africa Company's rule, 
that the natives, who readily appreciated the justness of the 
cause in which the Empire was fighting, not only remained 
quiet, but served in large numbers as carriers. The natives 
of Rhodesia and the whole of South Africa, represented by 
our enemies as groaning beneath the heel of England, never 
had a better opportunity of throwing off their allegiance than 
during the preoccupation of Britain in the War ; at least 
they might have caused very serious embarrassment ; and 
they remained splendidly loyal. Let that be remembered. 
Of those whose help we have recorded, Ryan went to 
command a vessel in the northern seas and do very valu- 
able work in submarine detection ; Daffarn was early killed 
on the German frontier ; Macaulay, who had recently retired 
from the Service after a long career, was killed on the 
Western front ; Lynch fell, a Lieut, -Colonel and D.S.O., at 
the head of his battalion ; Handley, after serving through 
the Cameroons campaign, was twice wounded in France, 
gained the Military Cross and bar, and finally was killed 
while leading his company of Coldstream Guards into 


action ; Heath and Earee both served in France, and the 
former was wounded. Nor can we forget the two veterans, 
whose names will always be associated with the early ex- 
ploration of North-west Rhodesia — Colonel Gibbons and 
Captain F. C. Selous, D.S.O., who were killed, the one in 
GallipoH and the other in East Africa. Little did we 
think, when first drafting this Preface early in 1914, that 
we should have to conclude it in this way. 



P.S. — This preface was already printed when news came 
from Africa that, for me as for others, took the spring out 
of the year. Andrew Dale died of blackwater fever at 
Mumbwa, Northern Rhodesia, on May i, 1919. He did not 
live to see a line of our book in type. It was as a crippled 
and broken man, without a regret, that, after heroic suffer- 
ing, he returned to Africa and re-entered the British South 
Africa Company's service in the hope of setting free a 
younger and more active man for military duty. It was 
always his express desire that the personal note should be 
kept out of our book, and so, though I could and would 
like to write more of my friend, I refrain. I will only say 
that of the men I have known none has come nearer my 
ideal of what a man should be. Happy Britain to have 
such sons as he to represent her among the backward 
races ! 

E. W. S. 

Union Club, Rome, 
Jtme 28, 1 91 9. 



List of Illustrations 

Introductory Note , 




The Environment 




History . . . . . 

1. Prehistoric .... 

2. The Internal History of«the Ba-ila 

3. Conflicts with Foreign Foes 

4. Contact of the Ba-ila with Europeans 

Appendix : Names of Chiefs 


Physical Characteristics : Dress and Decoration 

1. Physical Characteristics . 

2. Clothing and Decoration . 


17 S^ynil 











Building Operations and Village Life 

. I. Description of a Village. 
2. Life in a Native Village . 




Domestic Animals 


Agriculture, Foods, Narcotics . 

1. Methods of Agriculture . 

2. A Calendar . 

3. Foods and Cooking 

4. A List of Foods and Drinks 

5. Narcotics 

Hunting and Fishing . . . 

1. Methods of Hunting 

2. Methods of Fishing 

3. Some Hunting and Fishing Customs 










Various Handicrafts 


1. Work in Ivory 


2. Skin-dressing . . . 


3. Stjiings 

. 183 

4. Basketry 




5. Working in Clay . 

6. Woodwork . 

7. Ironwork : {a) Smelting . 

8. ,, (d) Blacksmithing 


21 1 

Leechcraft ...... 

1. Ba-ila Ideas of Anatomy and Physiology 

2. Medicines . 
Diseases and Remedies 

4J The Causes of Disease 

5. Snake-bites, etc. 

6. The Use of Aphrodisiacs, etc. 

7. Amulets and Talismans 

8. The Practitioners : (a) The Diviner 

9. ,, ,, {i>) The Doctor 

w> ' n 







Social Organisation 

1. The Family . 

2. The Clan 

3. The Community 

4. Secondary Social Groups 
Appendix I. : List of Mikoa 

II. : List of Communities 



Terms of Relationship 





Regulation of the Communal Life 

1. The Sanctions 

2. Chisapi, Buditazhi, Tonda . 

3. Judicial Processes . 





Etiquette : The Laws of Polite Behaviour 

1 . Salutations ...... 

2. Names ...... 

3. Offences against the Person : (a) Buditazhi 

Offences ..... 

4. Offences against the Person: {b) Matushi 

5. The Regard for Truth .... 


The Rights of Property ..... 

1. How Property is acquired 

2. Inheritance ..... 

3. Offences against Property 




Slavery .... 

1. How People become Slaves 

2. Character of the Slavery 


The Regard for Life 

1. Homicide 

2. Feticide 

3. Infanticide . 

4. Suicide 









The Superior I la Type 

On the Bvvila Plain 

The Kafue River at Mwengwa 

The River Kafue, flowing through the Plain 

Bridge over the Kafue River . 

On the Kafue River 

" Where Afric's Sunny Fountains " 

On the Nansenga River 

On the Kafue Plain 

A Scene at Kasenga . 

Grooves in Rock in Batoka Hills, twenty miles south of 

Mukubu, Dr. Livingstone's servant 

The Nanibala Mountain 

Leselo, one of our Informants. A Balumbu Type 

Facsimile of a Small Section of Livingstone's Original 

the Zambesi River Tei'ritory made on his Great 

across Africa, 1853-54 
Mungaila IL, Chief of the Bamala 
The Inferior I la Type 
A Young Mwila wearing the Impumbe . 
An Old-Man-of-the-Woods from Mulendema's . 
Chikatakala, "The Polar Bear," a Chief at Kasenga 
A Dwarf 

A Mixed Ila-Luba Type 
Cast of Lower Teeth of a Native 
Bambala Girls 






1 1 




Map of 

Sewing the Isusu 








Sewing the Isusu .... 

Some Ba-ila Youngsters 

Some Ba-ila Youngsters 

Repairing the Impumbe 

After repairing the Impumbe : shaving the Head 

The Chief Chibaluma. Mixed Ila and Luba Type 

The Chief Chibaluma. Mixed Ila and Luba Type 


A Young Mwila 

Ba-ila Women and Children 

Two Ba-ila Girls 

Namushia, Son of Mungaila, Chief at Kasenga 

Namushia, Son of Mungaila, Chief at Kasenga 

Young Ba-ila fresh from the Hairdresser 

The Chief Shimunungu and two of his Men 

A Baluba Type 

A Mwila 

A Nanzela Doctor 

On the March . 

Swimming a River 

A Mwila Woman 

In Festive Attire 

Ba-ila Warriors 

A War Dance 

Bambwela Type 

A Village at Kasenga . 

The Chief Shaloba 

Plan of Lubwe Village 

A Batwa Village 

Principal Hut of the Chief Sezongo at Nanzela 

In a Basodi Village 

Plan of a House . . • 


Plan of Fireplace 

The Fireback . 

Mulendema and his Family at Home 

The Chief Shaloba and his Band 



Cattle drinking in the Kafue River 

The Ba-ila Churn 

Cattle on the Kafue Plain 

Filling the Grain Bin . 

Grain Bins (Matala) 

Balumbu Women stamping Corn 

Bows and Arrows 

Diagram of Game Trap 

A Quick Catch 


The Ivhunibo Fish-trap 

The Mono Fish-trap 

Plan of the Mielo Weir 

Preparing for the Fishing. Making the Isasa 

The Mielo in Position (General View) 

The Mielo in Position (Nearer View) 

Plan of the Weir : Kukosola Chimpinda 

Ba-ila Warriors 

A Mimic Fight 

A Mimic Fight : Hurling the Spears 

A Mimic Fight : The Charge . 

A Mimic Fight : Spearing the Earth at the End of a Charge 

A Mimic Fight : A Group of admiring Female Spectators 

Returning from the Fight . *. , . 

The Ivory-turner ..... 

Knots used by the Ba-ila .... 

Making a Net ..... 

Basketry : Base of the Intumba 


Woman making an Intundu Basket : Laying out the Base 

Woman making an Intundu Basket 

Making a Chizongo Basket (First Stage) 

Making a Chizongo Basket 

Pot-rhaking (First Stage) 

Pot-making (Later Stage) 

Preparing to bake the Pots 

Ba-ila Pots 





. 136 

. 138 


• 154 

• 157 




. 163 

. 163 


. 165 


. 167 






. 176 




. 185 


. 187 











Pipe-heads .... 

Ba-ila Pipes and Pipe-heads 

Wood-carver at Work : Making an hidandala 

Specimens of Woodwork from Nanzela 

Milk-pails and Bowls from Nanzela 

Ba-ila Stools . 

Canoe-making : Shaping the Trunk 

Canoe-making : the Job complete 

Old Inganzo (Smelting-kilns) 

Old Inganzo (Smelting-kilns) 

The Smithy 

The Blacksmith at Work 

Some Ba-ila Spears 

Ba-ila Axes 

Battle-axe {Bukand) 

Blacksmith's Work 

Lukalo, a Leper Woman 

Bracelets and Charms . 

A Bambala Doctor 

A Doctor's Outfit 

Part of Chibaluma's Family 

A Group of Ba-Lenje from Shitanda 

Father and Sons 

Government Officials holding a Court at Itumbi 

A Mwila Woman carrying a Water-pot 

An Old Slave Woman . 






Map of a Part of N. Rhodesia . 

To face p. xxv 

^/ A ClarK Lot Prtn^n, £dinC 


Who are the " Ila-speaking peoples " ? 

Generally speaking, they are the people usually known 
as the Mashukulumbwe, or, as Livingstone spelt it, Bashu- 
kulompo. This is not the name by which they call them- 
selves, but was given them by their neighbours and con- 
querors, the Barotsi. It has not been easy to find the 
meaning of this word, but we are inclined to accept the 
derivation suggested to us by the Rev. A. Jalla of Lealui, 
viz. two Luyi (Rotsi) words : kushukula, " to brush the hair 
back from the forehead," and lumpwili, " a built-up mass 
of hair" (Ba-shukula-lumpwili = Ba-shuku-lumpwi) . The 
reference is to the characteristic coiffure of the people. The 
Matabele call them Matjokotjoko, in allusion to their manner 
of speaking. Both these names were given in derision, and 
the people resent their use ; we have, therefore, not used 
either of them. 

The chief thing that unites them is the language they 
speak, viz. Ila. We might, therefore, simply call them all 
Ba-ila ; and indeed we do often include all the sections under 
this comprehensive title. But, according to native usage, 
this is not strictly correct. Some of the people consider 
themselves exclusively entitled to the name ; and in the fol- 
lowing classification we are looking through their eyes. 
This in the interests of accuracy ; for practical purposes 
they can all be regarded as one. 

I. The Ba-ila. — According to themselves, the pucka 
Ba-ila, Their country, called Bwila, as defined by themselves 
and as delineated on the map, is a small one. Like most 
African tribal names, it is difficult to determine its meaning. 
The word Tla, standing alone, may mean several things : it is 



a verb, " to go to " or " go for," and Ba-ila might mean " the 
people going off." Ila also means " a distended intestine," 
also " a grain of corn." But none of these is satisfactory. 
Ila is also one form of the verb zhila, " be taboo, set apart," 
corresponding to sacer, hagios, haram. It is an old Bantu 
root : Suto, ila ; Zulu, zila ; Ronga, yila ; Herero, zera ; 
Nyanja, yera ; Upper Congo, Mia ; cf. Ganda, omuzira, a 
totem. It occurs also in some tribal names, e.g. Bashilange, 
" they who taboo the leopard." This is, we think, the deriva- 
tion of the name Ba-ila : " The people who are taboo, set 
apart" ; they are the Hagioi ; in short, the people. This 
certainly answers very well to the arrogant spirit of the 

When in the following pages we speak of " the Ba-ila 
proper," it is these people we mean. 

2. While they themselves restrict the name to the in- 
habitants of the district defined, there are others outside 
its limits who also claim to be Ba-ila. Such are the people 
to the west whom the Ba-ila proper call Bambo, "the western 
folk," and the Babizhi in the south. They speak Ila and 
have the tribal marks. 

3. The same may be said of the Balundwe, to the south- 
east. Their dialect is rather different, and they are to some 
extent intermixed with the Batonga, but they are near 
enough to have the right to the sacred name. 

4. On the north are the Bambala, i.e. " the northern 
people." Except near the Bwila border, they are somewhat 
intermixed with their neighbours, Baluba, Batema, and 
Basala, and their appearance, customs, and language vary 
accordingly ; but they speak Ila, and so come within the 
scope of this book. 

5. The Basala are somewhat different from the Ba-ila, 
and probably are later immigrants into this district. There 
is a Sala language, but it is now largely displaced by Ila. 

6. Along the Kafue are the river people, the Batwa. 
Their name is widely found in Africa : the Bushmen in the 
south are called Abatwa by the Zulus and Baroa by the 
Basuto ; there are Batwa on the lower Zambesi, others in 
the Lukanga swamps of the Kafue, and others farther north 
on the Congo. The name may mean " aborigines " and 


have been applied by the Bantu invaders to the peoples 
they found in possession. There are many differences 
between Ba-ila and Batwa. They seem to have a language 
of their own, but those living near the Bwila speak Ila. 

7. There are people in the west on the Nanzela River 
who call themselves Balumbu, a name which the Ba-ila 
apply indiscriminately to all foreigners. They are very 
mixed, but now the language of them all is Ila. 

These, then, comprise the Ila-speaking peoples. Beside 
them, both on the north and the south, the Ba-ila are con- 
tiguous with tribes with whom, linguistically at least, they 
are very closely related, and whose history and customs we 
would gladly have included in our book had we had oppor- 
tunity of studying them. On the north are the Batema and 
Walenje (or Beni Mukuni), closely allied peoples, though 
separated by many small differences, e.g. the Walenje knock 
out three front teeth, while the Batema file the two front 
incisors into an inverted V. On the south are the Batonga, 
or Batoka, a name which covers remnants of many tribes. 
If we may judge by language, they are nearly akin with 
the Ba-ila, as also are the Basubia on the Zambesi around 
Sesheke, though different in physical features and customs. 
On the contrary, the other neighbours of the Ba-ila — Mankoya 
on the west, Baluba on the north-west, and Basodi and 
Bashamba on the north-east — are, as well in language as in 
other things, very distinct people. 

Our readers will kindly bear in mind that Ila is a root- 
word, and is not, from the native point of view, complete 
without a prefix. Mwila ( = mu-ila) means a single person 
of the tribe ; Ba-ila, more than one person ; Bwila ( = bu-ila) 
is the name of the country. The same three prefixes occur 
with the same meaning in other tribal names, e.g. mu-lumbu, 
ba-lumbu, bu-lumbu. 

Ba-ila corresponds, then, in form to Englishmen. One 
does not say " the Englishmen country," and on that 
analogy it is incorrect, when writing English, to use Ba-ila 
as an adjective : we should say " the Ila country," " the 
Ila language," etc. But it is not easy to be always con- 
sistent in this. 


VOL. I. ^ 



The Ila-speaking people of Northern Rhodesia inhabit the 
country lying to the north of the Batoka plateau, above 
the middle Zambesi, the limits being roughly, both on the 
north and south, conterminous with the watershed of the 
river with which the lives of the majority are bound up. 
Some two hundred miles due north of the Victoria Falls, this 
river — the Kafue, called by the natives Kavuvu (" Hippo- 
potamus River ") — leaves the hill countr}/ and flows through 
wide and fertile plains, and these have been the home of 
the Ba-ila for as long a period as our information extends. 
On the north the blue hills of Mbala, as seen from Bwila, 
afford a refreshing change to the eye wearied by the flatness 
of the plains. These well-wooded hills and valleys are 
inhabited by the Bambala and Basala, who have the advan- 
tage of diversified and picturesque scenery, but, on the 
other hand, as these same hills and valleys are infested by 
the tsetse fly, have not the wealth in cattle that the plain- 
loving Ba-ila enjoy. To the south the sandhills and forests 
of the Bwila border rise gradually, to merge into the Batoka 

Altogether dissimilar from the country surrounding it, as 
its inhabitants differ from the tribes surrounding them, the 
Bwila possesses many features peculiarly its own. As the 
traveller from either the north or the south emerges from 
the mountainous country which fringes the Kafue plain, he 
views, stretching far on all sides until lost in the mirage of 
Africa, a wide expanse of level country, seemingly as flat 
as a billiard table, and varying in appearance with the 



PT. I 

season : in spring, green 
and smooth as the sward 
of an EngHsh lawn, 
russet brown in early 
winter, but black, bare 
and forbidding a few 
weeks later when the 
grass fires, with an im- 
petuosity derived from 
miles of uninterrupted 
devastation and fanned 
by the strong easterly 
wind which blows during 
the dry season, have 
swept over it. At this 
time, described by a 
pessimistic traveller as 
" Nature in her most 
repulsive mood," the 
sportsman and the 
naturalist reap rich re- 
payment for their toil 
in the flats. The game, 
large and small, no 
longer concealed by 
grass eight and ten feet 
high, frequents the plain 
in great numbers, w?iile 
the welcome shade on 
the river-bank enables 
the lover of nature to 
gaze in amazement and 
delight upon a profusion 
and variety of water- 
fowl and other birds 
such as can be seen in 
few other parts of the 

Keen as is the enjoy- 
ment derived from a view 

CH. I 


of the plains glowing under the noonday sun, for dreamy 
beauty and romantic charm it is necessary to leave the 
evening camp-fires and study them when bathed by the rays 
of the full moon. The eye, aided by the imagination, travels 
away into the dim distance, while only some stately Borassus 
palm standing sentinel-like in the night, or the huge limbs 
of some gnarled and ancient fig tree, interrupt the sight. 
Towards the latter end of the rainy season the whole aspect 
is changed. The river is full, the wide plains are one sheet 

Photo H. ir. Stnitk. 

The Kafue River at Mwengwa. 

of water, the baked paths with their gaping sun-cracks are 
submerged ten feet deep, and only a solitary dug-out canoe 
occasionally breaks the silence and the view. 

Rising with little promise of its future power close to 
the sources of the Zambesi and the Congo, the Kafue, first 
flowing past the infant Hippo Mine, then taking the com- 
prehensive bend south known as the Hook of the Kafue, 
and dashing for a time through small hills and thickly 
wooded banks over a sequence of rapids and cascades, turns 
at last at its junction with the Musa River near the Whete- 
zhitezhi Hill eastwards towards its ultimate union with the 


PT. I 

Zambesi, leaving hills 
and trees behind for a 
long three hundred miles, 
and passing numerous 
native villages, until at 
last the sight of the 
handsome Kafue railway 
bridge, set amidst trees 
with a background of 
hills, gladdens the eyes 
of the expectant tra- 
veller. Below the bridge 
it still has eighty miles 
to go, and its course 
now passes between pre- 
cipitous and uninhabited 
banks and over a series 
of waterfalls and rapids. 
The course of the river 
through the plain is tor- 
tuous in the extreme, 
indeed one finds one's 
canoe facing at times 
every point of the com- 
pass. By water the dis- 
tance is three hundred 
miles, but a straight line 
of one hundred and fifty 
miles covers the country 
actually occupied by the 
Ba-ila, their villages and 
lands extending back 
some twenty or thirty 
miles to the south and 
north of the river. 

On the river -bank, 
as stated, are numerous 
native villages built of 
the rudest materials, viz. 
mealie stalks, reeds, and 

CH. I 


grass. These are occupied by the Batwa, who may be 
termed the Ishmaehtes of the Ba-ila, the last and most 
reluctant to accept European administration in this part 
of the world. As absolutely at home among their native 
swamps as the Bushmen are in the desert, they excite 
reluctant admiration by their prowess as watermen and 
fishermen, but repulsion by their uncouth and uncleanly 
methods of life. 

The largest Ba-ila villages, commanding readiest access 
to the richest grazing that springs up after the waters recede, 

Photo E. IV. Smith. 

Bridge over the Kafue River. 

are situated along the edge of the sand forests and jungle 
bush which border and jut out into the plains on either bank. 
In these forests, which comprise a large number of useful 
trees and many varieties of indigenous fruit and berries, 
the Ba-ila make their lands after their usual improvident 
fashion, destroying and burning, in making their clearings, 
much timber for the sake of the potash fertiliser it contains, 
and after two years moving on to repeat the process else- 
where. The sandy soil, poor-looking to the eye, yields for 
a year or two fair crops of maize, millet, and various vege- 



PT. I 

tables as beans, ground-nuts, and pumpkins, and is especially 
adapted for cotton, while the gardens cultivated in the rich 
black alluvial loam of the river-bank repay their fortunate 
possessors with enormous harvests — always provided they 
have been sufficiently industrious to plant with the early 
rains, otherwise the flooded river sweeps everything before 
it. The Bambala have at their disposal a deep red soil 
which, with proper cultivation, produces fine crops. 

Amongst the endless swamps and morasses of the flats, 
the home of numerous sitatunga antelope, one in particular 

Photo Rev. n'. Chap}najt. 

On the Kafue River. 

is worthy of notice, forming as it does a perfect counterpart 
to that Isle of Ely so famous in our own history. Close to 
the large influential district of Mala, the headquarters of the 
Ba-ila (if such a term may be used of a people who acknow- 
ledge no head), is the island named Makobo. In the form 
of a rough circle five miles in diameter, full of swamps, 
lagoons, and reed-beds, and surrounded completely by a 
river, except in the driest season, it forms a haven of refuge 
within which the Mala people have often fled from their 
Matabele and Barotsi foes, taking with them their household 
goods and swimming their valued cattle across. 

CH. I 


At the foot of the ridge of western hills already men- 
tioned are some boiling mineral springs, named Ndongola, 
well worth a visit from the traveller. Sulphur being a 
principal constituent, their efficacy in rheumatic complaints 
is highly esteemed by those acquainted with them. 

One other landmark of interest may be mentioned, the 
Balumbwa Mountain, used on numberless occasions, like 
the Nambala mountains, as a place of refuge. 

The above form almost the only spots of interest in the 
district, whose charms centre more in the wild life, both 
human and animal, contained within it. Almost every spot 
has its tradition of fray and foray, known often only to a 
few, and the majority of the more isolated trees mark places 
of burial or sacrifice. 

Some three thousand feet above sea-level the climate 
for the greater part of the year is equable and mild. Frosts 
are rarely experienced even on the river-bank, and never 
exceed two degrees. During the whole of the dry season, 
from April to September, strong easterly winds blow in- 
cessantly, and though unpleasant to a degree from the ash 
and dust they carry, they nevertheless make the season 
very invigorating. Actual climatic inconvenience is felt 
only during the months of September and October immedi- 
ately before the rains, when the heavens, heavy with masses 
of lowering clouds betokening the coming rain, are indeed as 
brass and the nights close and sultry. Even this period has 
its compensations, for during Rhodesia's " wonder month," 
as it is beautifully called, the singular sight is witnessed of 
trees loaded with sweet-smelling blossoms which have not 
yet put forth their leaves, while the veld shoots out a wealth 
of gaily coloured and richly scented flowers, making the air 
heavy with their perfume. 

The rains fall first in October and set in earnestly in 
December, ending usually in March. The rainfall for the 
year, from imperfect statistics, is on the average thirty 
inches. A feature of the rains is the cold which so frequently 
accompanies them. 

The flats flood as a rule in late February or early March, 
the cause being not the local rains, as might be supposed, 
but the heavy rains higher up the Kafue ; at the time the 



n. I 

river fills, the water draining down from the highlands north 
and south along numerous watercourses, which lose their 

P/wto E. W. Smith. 

Where Afric's Sunny Fountains." 

depth of bank when they reach the plain, flows out over 
the flats because the already swollen river cannot carry it 
away quickly enough. The flats dry during June, after 

CH. I 



which month, as already told, the grass fires sweep over 
the country, doing annually untold damage to the virgin 
forests, but clearing it of the grass and undergrowth which 
have hitherto afforded secure retreats to the numerous 
members of the African felidae which prey upon domestic 
stock. Every year lives are lost in these fires, which travel 
with incredible rapidity. 

The vast swamps are the breeding-places of millions 
upon millions of mosquitoes, among which abounds the 

riiolo H. ir. Siinl/t. 

On the Nansenga Rivek. 

ever-to-be-dreaded Anopheles, and malarial fever, as is to 
be expected in the circumstances, is inseparable from the 
low-lying Kafue valley. 

In seeking in this chapter to give our readers a com- 
prehensive view of the country it is impossible to pass 
without mention the wealth of animal life. At certain 
seasons the earth, the heavens, the waters all teem with 
life. The largest animals, it is true, are but seldom seen : 
two herds of elephant on their migrations visit the district 
annually, following a route centuries old ; and the rhinoceros 
is found in small numbers both on the north and south 


bank. Hippopotami, which are unusually pugnacious in 
the Kafue, are still numerous, but have decreased much in 
late years owing to the campaign waged against them. 
The smaller fauna are still found in numbers and varieties 
which rival the famous Athi plains. In the forests bordering 
the flats, sable, waterbuck, and kudu, the stateliest and 
handsomest of antelope, are frequently found in company 
with the graceful rooibok, bushbuck, and steinbok, while 
the largest of the antelope family, the royal eland, is the 
most plentiful of all, some herds being of so considerable 
a size that two or three score little calves are sometimes seen 
cantering by their mothers' sides at once. On the flats, 
the wildebeeste, with its grotesque antics, the ungainly 
hartebeeste, the roan antelope, called by the Dutch the 
bastard eland, and the zebra are constantly seen grazing 
to all appearance in one herd, until, on the alarm signal 
being given, they quickly disentangle themselves and each 
leader rapidly scours off, taking his herd to safety. 

Other " fiat " animals are the reedbuck, puku, and 
lechwe. The latter congregate in vast herds after the fires, 
and may be seen daily, literally not in hundreds but in 
thousands. The morasses and papyrus swamps are the* 
home of the sitatunga. From his nocturnal habits — 
necessitated by the abnormal length of his hoof, which, 
though wonderfully adapted, like the water-fowl's web-feet, 
to a swampy existence, incapacitates him from running with 
any speed — and his general wiliness, his handsome spiral 
horns form a trophy often sought but seldom obtained by 
the hunter. 

With such an abundant food-supply, it will readily be 
supposed the carnivora are not absent. Lion, leopard, 
serval, cheetah, wild dog, hyaena, and jackal are constantly 
hunting their prey. Lions hunt singly or in troops, some- 
times numbering as many as a dozen. As a general rule, 
those met unaccompanied are fiercer and more savage than 
the members of a group. It may be well to add, however, 
that there is no animal so uncertain as a lion. Where one 
might be expected to charge he will frequently slink away, 
and vice versa. Arrange to wait for him at moonset, and he 
will make his rounds before you have finished supper. The 


dogmatic sportsman who assures you a lion always does such 
and such a thing as a rule generalises from one or two 
experiences. In the Bwila several score of native cattle 
are annually killed by lions, some of whom pay the penalty 
of their depredations when the aggrieved owners turn out 
in force. In one year six lions were speared in fair hunting 
on the open flat, with two, fortunately not fatal, casualties 
among the hunters. These lions sometimes make a regular 
round of fifty miles or more, and the remark is often heard, 
" To-night they will kill at so-and-so's kraal." After a 
repetition of such occurrences for centuries the natives have 
not yet learnt the wisdom of building lion-proof kraals. 

The animals mentioned comprise the more important 
denizens of the forests and plains. Bush-pig and warthog 
are common, although the former are not often seen. All 
members of the cat tribe are numerous. Snakes abound in 
great variety but fortunately cause few casualties ; the 
mamba, the puff-adder, the African cobra, and a small 
silver snake named chisambwe are the most deadly, though 
nearly all are dangerous. Ant-bears, porcupine, ratel, 
spring-hares all thrive in the sandy bush, which also contains 
big iguanas or land lizards, and land tortoises. 

To deal adequately with the bird life of the district would 
require a large volume. The writers have good authority 
for stating that many varieties are still unnamed. 
Of game birds the largest is the greater bustard, closely 
followed in point of size by the spurwing goose. Both the 
greater and lesser bustard are common at certain seasons. 
The dikkop is always to be found in the forests, with the 
common guinea-fowl and five kinds of francolin and par- 
tridge ; quail and button quail arrive in fair numbers, and 
snipe of two varieties (painted and Jack snipe) are plentiful. 
Storks of several varieties, cranes, hornbills, and flamingoes 
are regular frequenters of the flats and ponds, and are daily 
seen picking up small fish and snails. The beautiful crested 
crane, after the breeding season, is seen in flocks of forty and 
fifty. While land birds are plentiful, it is difficult to describe 
the numbers in which the water-fowl exist. The writers 
have more than once bagged three couple of duck with a 
rifle bullet, so dense was the flock. Spurwing geese, " the 

CH. I 



wood goose," as an early writer described it, from its habit of 
roosting in trees, Egyptian geese, knob-nosed duck, whistling 
duck, white-marked duck, and a number of other kinds of 
duck, widgeon, and teal often hide the sandbanks they 
frequent. All along the reed-beds fringing the river the 
attention is arrested by a succession of water-birds — egrets 
with their handsome plumes, herons blue and white, pelicans, 
clatterbills, hammerwings, darters, kingfishers of wonderful 
plumage, ibises, plovers, sea-swallows, gulls-T-all are seen in 

A Scene at Kasenga. 

succession preying on the marvellous food-supply the river 
holds for them ; while high over all the handsome fish-eagle 
with its harsh scream sails around. 

The natives who inhabit the country the main features 
of which have been thus cursorily described, number some 
sixty thousand, the female sex predominating in the pro- 
portion of three to two. When the advantages under which 
the Ba-ila live — their numerous herds, the abundance of 
fish, the frequent windfalls of meat, and their productive 
soil — when these advantages, comprising all an African 
desires, are remembered, it will be a matter for surprise that 
their numbers are so small. The reader's surprise will be 


less by the time he has read this book : he may then wonder 
that there are any people left. One reason, perhaps the 
chief, is the unproductiveness caused by the astonishing 
promiscuity of their sexual relations and the extreme earli- 
ness of age at which these relations commence. It is no 
exaggeration to state that from the age of seven or eight 
a girl, married or otherwise, counts her lovers, who are 
constantly changing, not singly but by the score. The 
writers at the time of the first census of the people were 
amazed to find kraal after kraal inhabited solely by adults, 
and to receive ,time and again the same reply, that there 
were no children, that, much as they wished for them, 
conception was a very difficult matter. 

In this as in many other directions the Ba-ila show them- 
selves distinct and apart from their neighbours. Certain 
of their characteristics are directly traceable to the land 
and the circumstances under which they live. Accustomed 
to good food and to constant exercise in the swampy flats, 
they possess fine physique and height, with an undue develop- 
ment of the lower limbs, showing in this respect an interest- 
ing resemblance to the Dinkas of the Nile, who live under 
closely similar conditions. The most feasible explanation 
of the long cone coiffure is undoubtedly that which attributes 
its origin to the necessity of keeping each other in sight 
when hunting or fighting in the thick cane brakes and reeds. 
To their constant isolation — little travelling is possible 
while the plains are flooded — may be traced the bluff in- 
dependence and the self-satisfaction which are so marked 
in their demeanour. A^^^' Mwila (" I am a Mwila ") a young- 
ster may be heard to exclaim, with as complete self-com- 
placency as could distinguish any ancient Roman. And 
they can infuse a tremendous amount of scorn into the 
word Balumhu, which they employ to describe all outside 
the pale — -European or native, freeman or serf, all are 
Balumhu, as the ancient Greeks contemptuously classed all 
Gentiles as l3dp/3apoc {" barbarians "). 



I. Prehistoric 

No traces have yet been found in this district of any ancient 
inhabitants. The nature of the low country does not lend 
itself to the preservation of such remains, and the hills, 
where, if anywhere, they might be found, have not yet been 
fully explored. Just beyond the confines of the district, 
however, there are some indications of a prehistoric occupa- 
tion. There is a remarkable cave at Broken Hill in which 
have been found stone implements, chiefly flakes of white 
opaque quartz, some showing distinctly chipping, cutting, or 
scraping edges and notches ; also bones showing cuts or 
notches, one being chipped into a rough hexagonal form ; 
pieces of bone, ivory, or horn shaped as if used for digging 
roots ; and large rounded pebbles of quartzite which must 
have been brought from a distance and were probably 
used for breaking up marrow-bones. These were found in 
connection with numerous animal remains, some of them 
apparently of extinct varieties.^ Flint implements have 
also been discovered in the neighbourhood of the Victoria 

Ancient workings, evidently for copper, have been found 
in the vicinity of the King Edward Mine, south-west of 
Lusaka. From the traces left one gathers that these 
ancient miners were there in great numbers, but there is 
nothing to indicate their nationality. 

^ Franklin White, Proceedings of the Rhodesia Scientific Association, 
Sept. 1908. 

VOL. I 17 C 


In the Batoka hills, twenty miles south of Kaunga and 
three miles east of Shamabuyu, Mr. G. F. B. Handley found 
and photographed a series of grooves in the solid granite 
rock ; but there is no indication of what people worked them, 
nor of their purpose, whether for grinding neoliths or for 
pulverising gold-bearing quartz. 

The Ila-speaking peoples and their neighbours on all 
sides belong to the Bantu subdivision of the African negroes, 
and their ancestors in remote times must have come down 
from the southern Soudan. We are here almost on the 
median line of the continent and at the junction of tribes 
seemingly belonging, if we may judge from linguistic evi- 
dence, to separate lines of immigration. The Ba-ila in the 
main belong, we think, to the Eastern Bantu, and came into 
their present domain on the crest of a wave of emigration 
from the north-east, from the country around the southern 
end of Lake Tanganyika, where, as we are told, the Bantu 
found a new motherland, a second focus and radius of de- 
velopment.^ But they have evidently been influenced by, 
and to some extent intermixed with, peoples of another 
section, which, after passing from the north-east through 
the Congo territory towards the west coast, curled back 
again towards the centre of the continent in a south-easterly 
direction. These statements are made on linguistic grounds. 
The closest affinities to Ila are found in a line of dialects 
stretching from the Subia on the Zambesi to the Bemba on 
Lake Tanganyika, and including midway the Tonga, Lenje, 
Bisa, and others. Many cult words, such as Leza (" the 
Supreme Being "), chisungu {" the puberty rites "), are 
common to these dialects and are not known in the west ; 
while in Ila we have such words as tonda {" taboo "), 
evidently brought from the west (cf. the Kele word orunda), 
and ifuka (" nine "), the root of which (buka) is found only 
among the West African Bantu. 

When and under what conditions these people reached 
their present home, and what tribes, if any, they dis- 
possessed, are questions to which their traditions afford no 
answer. If we had a complete list of all the clans of the 

^ Sir H. Johnston, George Grenfell and the Congo (London, 1908), vol. 
ii. p. 830. 

Photos G. F. B. Handley. 

Grooves in Rock in Batoka Hills, 20 miles south of Kaunga. 


Rhodesian tribes (especially if we had also the traditions 
associated with the clan names), we should probably be in 
a better position than we are to trace the tribal movements. 
For example, this tradition of the Banampongo, unfortu- 
nately the only one of its kind we have heard, is told by 
the Banampongo among the Ba-ila and also by a clan of 
the same name among the Balamba in the Ndola district, 
which shows that one section of the Banampongo has at 
no distant date moved south. The lake mentioned is the 
Mwine-mbushi, near Kapopo, evidently an old crater, four 
hundred yards in diameter. This is the legend : Once 
upon a time the Banampongo (the Goats) had a dispute with 
another clan, the Batembozhi (the Hornets), over a question 
of chieftainship ; the Banampongo, having got the worst of 
it and being ousted from their premier position, planned to 
destroy themselves in the lake. They set to work to twist 
a very long rope — men, women, and children. Then they 
gathered on the lakeside and tied the rope in turn around 
their necks, and all plunged into the unfathomable depths. 
A man of another clan, the Banankalamo (the Lions), had 
married a woman of the Banampongo, and after failing to 
induce her to refrain from suicide, determined to die with 
her. They happened to be the last to be tied to the rope ; 
they were pulled in and on the point of drowning when the 
man, repenting, cut the rope, and so freed himself and his 
wife. She struggled to escape from him, screaming, " Let 
m^e go ! let me go ! " but he persevered and brought her 
to land. This is why to this day the Banankalamo say 
to the Banampongo, "It is we who saved you from 

When the Ba-ila are pressed to say where their ancestors 
came from they can only reply hakaseluka (" they descended ") , 
Some of them interpret the word in a crudely literal sense, 
and would have us understand that their forefathers came 
down out of the sky, accompanied by animals, buffaloes in 
particular, which through training became cattle, and also by 
elephants and birds. On the shore of a lagoon of the Kafue 
River, at the Government station of Namwala, there is a 
bank of rock upon which these literalists say the ancients 
descended, and, in proof, they point to the innumerable 


pits in the weather-worn sandstone. What are these but 
the footprints of the ancestors, impressed on the rock at 
the moment of their first contact with earth ? The rock is 
named Bwengwa-Leza. Others use the word selitka in a 
more mystical sense as meaning the entry of a spirit into the 
woman through whom it is to be reincarnate, and in their 
mouths it means no more than to appear on earth, to be re- 
born. Ancient chiefs are named as having " descended " 
into certain districts ; by this the hterahsts mean that 
after touching earth at Bwengwa-Leza they separated and 
settled at those places ; the others mean simply that they 
were born in those districts. ' In either case these ancestors 
are regarded with great reverence ; they are the heni-mashi 
(" founders of the communities "), mizhimo ("demi-gods ")} 
to whom worship is principally rendered. 

It might be conjectured that the literalist tradition just 
mentioned preserves a reminiscence of the first arrival of 
the Ba-ila from some quarter now forgotten. The beni-mashi 
in that case would be the leaders of the original immigrants, 
and if we could trace back to them the line of chiefs from 
the present day we might be able to estimate approximately 
the date of the first arrival. We have elicited many of these 
lists, but cannot vouch for their accuracy. The people's 
memory is fallible and the lists may be incorrect in several 
directions : too short, owing to some chiefs having been 
forgotten as of no account ; or too long, because some are 
inserted without right ; one name may indicate several 
men, or, on the other hand, one individual may be named 
by several names. For what they are worth we give the 
names at the end of this chapter. In only two of the districts, 
it will be seen, have we been able to get more than six 
consecutive names ; in each case, like the eponymous 
heroes of the Greek clans, the first named is a demi-god, and 
if these were the first arrivals it would be impossible to 
assign the Ba-ila a period exceeding two hundred years. 
The other type of tradition to which we have referred, 

^ These demi-gods do not correspond to Hesiod's fourth generation 
of created men, avSpQiv rjpdiuv deiov yivos ; nor are they the offspring of 
mixed human and divine parentage ; the sense in which we use the term 
will be naade clear in a later chapter. 


however, tends to push the matter further back by de- 
claring that before the demi-gods appeared other spirits had 
descended for reincarnation. Shimunenga, e.g., of Mala, is 
said to have had a father, named Munambala, and a mother, 
Nachilomwe, who came from Kaundu. Of those preced- 
ing generations no memory survives, and instead of futilely 
guessing, it is best to say that we have no idea when the 
Ba-ila came into the country 

2. The Internal History of the Ba-ila 

What has been the history of these people since they 
first came ? The conclusion we arrive at, after protracted 
inquiries, is that it has been mostly a ghastly story of war 
and rapine. As far back as we can trace they have been 
torn with intestine strife, and, in addition, have been 
swept and scoured and harried almost to death by incessant 
raids from abroad. The numbers slain at any time in a 
single fight may not have been great, but the aggregate 
during a century or two must have been considerable, while 
the numbers carried into captivity and the deaths from 
starvation owing to the destruction of the crops must have 
immensely swelled the total loss. Add to this such devasta- 
tions as that caused by smallpox and the perpetual sacrifice 
of life on suspicion of witchcraft, and the wonder is that 
the people have not been exterminated. 

The Ba-ila have never been a united people, and conse- 
quently their story may be summed up in the words used 
by Gibbon of the ancient Britons : they possessed " valour 
without conduct and the love of freedom without the spirit 
of union. They took up arms with sudden fierceness, they 
laid them down or turned them against each other with wild 
inconstancy, and while they fought singly they were suc- 
cessively subdued." The examples we give below illustrate 
the petty origin of these civil conflicts, their long duration, 
and the light-hearted way in which one section would call 
in the aid of a foreign foe against its rival. The raider 
always found it easy to obtain, by promising a share of the 
booty, the assistance of one community against another. 
War has not been here, as in other parts of the world, a 


unifying force, banding all tribes under one head aganist a 
common foe ; on the contrary it has perpetuated the 
divisions by increasing the enmity between communities. 
All the wars, therefore, have had apparently no effect in 
raising the people above their former level. 

The way in which many of these civil conflicts arose 
is well shown in the following story from Lubanda Two 
men, named Shitukula and Mope had a dispute as to who 
could run the faster, and to decide the question the elders 
despatched the one to Bunga and the other to Mafwefwe 
to fetch certain hoes and spears Shitukula accomplished 
his errand ; they expected Mope's return, but he came not. 
On his arrival at Bunga that young blood had spanked into 
the village at top-speed The people, incensed by this 
breach of good manners set to beating him and burning 
him alive. The news reached Lubanda. and in great wrath 
the elders sent off an imprecatory message and followed it 
up by marching with all their men with the idea of falling 
upon the Bunga folk at dawn. But the wife of a Lubanda 
man stole off in the night and warned her friends at Bunga 
and all left the village. Finding it deserted, the Lubanda 
people burnt it to the ground. Rallying their forces, the 
Bungaites met and slew many of the enemy, whereupon 
the Lubandaites retreated and called upon their allies for 
help. In the end the Bunga people were victorious, but 
could not return to their ruined homes until they had paid 
over sufficient cattle to appease the spirits of the warriors 
slain there. To this day the feud has not been completely 

At Ngabo there was a famous " war " which arose out 
of a dispute concerning fishing rights. Shankalu's people 
began to fish in the Inyonzi pool, and the people of Musanana 
of Namaumbwe, who claimed the pool, objected. Sha- 
nkalu, determined to press his claim by force, sought aid 
from Namakubi and Bambwe, while the Lubwe people 
supported Musanana. A battle was fought at Namaumbwe, 
and three of Musanana's and two of Shankalu's men were 
killed. The natives say that although only five were killed 
it was a big fight. Musanana was driven from the district 
and lived elsewhere until Lewanika sent one of his indunas 


to take him back to Ngabo, and later he succeeded Kachinka 
as chief at landa. 

Another feud of long duration was that between the 
people of Chiyadila and Nyambo, and as usual the neigh- 
bours became involved on either side. It arose out of a dis- 
pute as to the possession of some land. A man namxcd 
Siatembo had found, while hunting lechwe, what he thought 
would be a fine site to occupy, so he and his people moved 
on to it and built the Nyambo villages. The Chiyadila 
people, living a few miles away, claimed this land, but 
Siatembo refused either to move or to pay ; consequently 
there was a quarrel, and whenever the rival villagers 
met they fought. Siatembo was succeeded by Mwana- 
monga, he by Mauzwe, and he by Mwezwa, and all the time 
the fighting went on. Mwezwa called the Byangwe people 
to aid him and the other party those of Nalubanda. A 
battle was fought "at Nyambo ; the village was burnt, but 
Mwezwa gained the day and caused the heads of his slain 
enemies to be cut off and stuck upon poles. Then Mwezwa 
died, and the present chief took his place and name. He 
had a rival in Shibulo, who, refusing to acknowledge his 
authority, was driven out and went to Chiyadila. This 
added further fuel to the fire and fights continually took 
place, one side and the other being victorious in turn. Then 
Mwezwa went to beg the aid of the Barotsi, and Lewanika 
gave him some of his warriors, by whose assistance the 
Chiyadila people were driven away. They remained dis- 
persed among the neighbouring communities, until ulti- 
mately Mwezwa agreed to accept the indemnity they offered 
and allowed them to return home. Shibulo, however, 
refused to pay, and was driven out by Mwezwa ; he lived 
at Mala until the establishment of English rule put a stop 
to these conflicts. 

These are but illustrations of the unsettled state of the 
country, which prevailed from ancient times until the last 
few years. Old men tell us that war was the normal thing 
and peace unknown. Places are pointed out that in other 
days were occupied by large communities which have been 
either exterminated or dispersed. One of these places 
is some ten miles from Mala, formerly inhabited by the 



Bantuba. They are now extinct. It is no wonder that the 
raiders when they came had no difficulty in carrying off 
the cattle and enslaving multitudes, or that at last the Ba-ila 
should have been compelled to acknowledge a foreign 

3. Conflicts with Foreign Foes 

It is impossible to write a sketch of Ba-ila history without 
reference to the affairs of their neighbours. And indeed we 
have to go much farther afield — so far as the Congo territory 
and even Unyamwezi in the north and Zululand in the 
distant south. Just as a stone dropped into a pond sets up 
ripples which radiate in ever-widening circles until they 
beat upon the encircling banks, so here the emergence of 
great personalities such as Mushidi in the north and Chaka 
in the south set forces in motion whose impact upon the 
Ba-ila has been very disturbing. The following paragraphs, 
if at times they seem to wander somewhat from the Ba-ila, 
will illustrate the incessant violent jostling together of 
tribes which has been going on in Africa from remote times. 
Probably it is in this way, and not as a peaceful immigration, 
we are to conceive the gradual spread of the Bantu from 
their home in the far north. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Upper 
Zambesi valley was inhabited by various clans who bore the 
name collectively of Balui. Some of the chiefs were of an 
adventurous spirit, and two of them, with their people called 
Bambwela, migrated to the north-east seeking fresh hunting- 
grounds. One of them was Kabulwebulwe, who settled 
near the Upper Kafue, in the region where his descendants 
still live. The other was named Kale (Kahadi), and he 
settled farther north on the Lunga, a tributary of the Kafue. 
He had not been there long before the country was invaded 
by a strong party of Baluba, from the Lunda country across 
the Kabompo River, under their six chiefs Kamimbe, Kapidi, 
Mponda, Nyoka, Kaindu, and Mushima. These had left 
their homes on account of disturbances made by a Lunda 
chief named Mukumbi. Kale received the visitors amicably 
and gave Kapidi his daughter to wife. After a time the 
friendly relations between the Bambwela and Baluba were 


broken by a quarrel between the two chiefs over a question 
of wearing the impande shell, an emblem of chief ship 
introduced by the Baluba. The two men came to blows, 
and war followed. Kapidi was captured and all his hair 
shaved off. His people had to ransom him. Maddened by 
the insult, Kapidi resumed the war and killed Kale's younger 
brother. Fighting went on for about three years, and then 
the Baluba had to flee. They crossed the Kafue into Ila 
country, which then extended farther and was more densely 
populated than it is now. Kale pursued them It is said 
that Kapidi made a dog, empoisoned it, and sent it to bite 
Kale. Others say simply that Kale was bitten by a mad 
dog. Anyhow he died just as he and hi? people were about 
to cross the Kafue, and was taken home for bunal. The 
Baluba chiefs now settled in the neighbourhood of the 
Mutumbwe Hill until they got to fighting among themselves. 
But first they had to make good their position among 
the Ba-ila. A protracted conflict took place, in which 
the poisoned arrows of the invaders gave them a great 
advantage, and the Ba-ila were compelled to surrender a 
considerable stretch of territory.^ 

The Bambwela settled on the Lunga were not left in 
peace. There had arisen in the Katanga country an adven- 
turer named Mushidi (Msidi), called also Mwenda, Mwenda- 
bantu, Komesa. He was of the Wakalaganza, a principal 
tribe among the Wanyamwezi, his father being a minor 
chief under the notorious Mirambo. On one occasion 
Mushidi visited Katanga instead of his father, who was 
accustomed to go there trading for copper ; the Katanga 
chief, Sanga, was at war with the Baluba, and Mushidi 
helped him with his guns — a new thing there — and defeated 
them. Mushidi returned home laden with ivory, but came 
back to stay, and on Sanga's death took his place. He 
carried war into all the countries around, added Lubaland 
to his dominions, encouraged refugees from the Lunda 
country, and until his death at the hands of Captain Bodson 
in 1892 was a terror to all neighbouring peoples.^ He sent 

1 There had evidently been incursions from the Lunda country previous 
to this. Some say that Munyama (see Chap. XXII.) headed one of these. 

* See F. S. Arnot, Garenganze (London, 1889) ; V. L. Cameron, 
Across Africa, 1S77 ; D. Crawford, Thinking Black (London, 1912), 



his armies, known to Baluba and Ba-ila as Mapupushi, or 
Bangalanganza, to invade the countries to the south. They 
fell upon the Bambwela on the Lunga and scattered them. 
A chief named Kabimba was slain, and his son, Muyani, 
escaped to Sitanda, but, being followed, came on to Makunko 
in Ila territory, and then later settled in the district of 
Isalama, where he still lives. We have this information 
from him. By this raid of Mushidi's people more Baluba 
were pressed forward into the Ila country, and fighting 
went on between the two peoples which only came to a 
close on the arrival of Sebitwane. 

North of the Ila country to-day are found the Bakaundi, 
under their chief Kasempa, who also are an offshoot from the 
great Baluba tribe of the Congo ; their home originally was 
on the Lukanga, a tributary of the Lualaba, and from there 
they came south to the Lukanga, a tributary of the Kafue. 
After a time the chiefship was annexed by Kawambala ; he 
is said to have been a great chief but jealous of the young 
men of his family, especially of one Jipumpu (afterwards 
entitled Kasempa), his cousin, who was a mighty hunter. 
Kawambala treacherously attacked Jipumpu's village and 
carried off his wives; in revenge, Jipumpu ambushed him 
in the forest, and with his own hand sent an arrow through 
him. A son of Kawambala escaped, though badly wounded, 
and went to Kamimbe in Mushidi's country, returning after 
a time with an army against Jipumpu. Jipumpu was suc- 
cessful for a time but had then to withdraw into the Congo 
country, where for a year he remained among relatives. 
Then he returned, swept all before him, and ruled with the 
title Kasempa. He settled on the Kamsongolwa Hill and 
gathered around him great numbers of refugees. Mushidi's 
armies attacked him there, but the position was too strong 
and they failed. On one occasion at least Kasempa crossed 
the Kafue on a raiding expedition, and twice sent his men 
to fight and capture slaves among the Ba-ila. He died in 
1907, and was succeeded by a nephew, Kasempa Kalusha.^ 

We turn now to the tribal movement from the south 

^ Kasempa's history was communicated to us by Mr. Hazell, the 
District Commissioner. The chronology being vague, it is impossible to 
say what relation in time this account bears to the others given above. 


which has so largely affected the Ba-ila. There is no need 
to repeat in detail the oft-told story of Sebitwane and the 
Makololo.^ Suffice it to say that the disturbances caused 
in South Africa by the Zulu Napoleon, Chaka, resulted 
both in Umziligazi founding the Matabele nation, and in 
Sebitwane, a Bafokeng chief of Basuto stock, leaving his 
home and pushing his way north in search of a peaceful 
abode. Sebitwane was then a young man of twenty, but 
so great already was his influence that, it is said, he had 
30,000 followers. After being worsted by Umziligazi, the 
chief of the Matabele, about 1823, he struck north-east ; 
driven off from Kuruman by the Griquas, he fought his way 
north through the Barolong and Bangwaketsi, through the 
Batawana of Lake Ngami, and ultimately reached the 
Linyanti, which, after two or three years, he followed 
down till he arrived on the Zambesi opposite Kazungula. 
It was a great march ; what a pity there was no native 
Xenophon to tell the story ! North of the Zambesi there 
was a quarrel between Sundamo, chief of the Basubia, and 
Sekute, chief of the Balea. The former begged Sebi- 
t wane's help against Sekute, who had his village on the 
island of Kalai, so he crossed the Zamibesi. Then the 
Makololo (as Sebitwane's people were called) heard of the 
wealth of the Batonga in cattle, and planned either to 
conquer them or to rob them after lulling their suspicions 
by a show of friendship. When he saw the former plan 
was unfeasible Sebitwane contracted a matrimonial alliance 
with the Batonga chief Mosokotwane. After a time he 
collected the Batonga leaders, as if to consult with them 
about invading the Ba-ila, and while they sat in council 
unarmed his warriors massacred them with their chief. The 
herds of the unfortunate Batonga were captured — so many 
that they could not be numbered. Then Sebitwane went 
on to the Ba-ila, but on that occasion got no farther 
than the Mozuma River. The Ba-ila, though defeated 
by day, returned at night and recaptured their cattle. 

^ See Dr. Livingstone, Missionary Travels and Researches in South 
Africa, 1857, chap. iv. ; A. Jalla, Lifaba tsa sechaba sa Marotse, passim 
(a history of the Barotsi in the Kololo dialect) ; D. F. Ellenberger and 
J. C. Macgregor, History of the Basuto, 1913. 



Sebitwane settled for a time at Kapoli near Kalomo 
and imposed his rule upon the tribes around, but the Ba-ila 
were not easily subdued. He went against them, first to 
Kasenga, where, after a day's fighting and heavy losses, 
they were defeated. Thence he went to Kabulamwanda 
and Mbeza. Having defeated Munyati at the latter place, 
he proceeded against the Bwengwa people, and thence to 
the Kafue to deal with the Batwa. He captured some of 
these unfortunates and compelled them to ferry his army 
across the river. The Batwa attempted no resistance, but 
all who could fled into their native swamps. Thence 
Sebitwane proceeded to Nyambo, where the Ba-ila offered 
great resistance, but after three days' fighting he defeated 
them. The Makololo drove off all the cattle, and, it is said, 
killed all the warriors they could get hold of, as well as 
the old men and women. Thence he went on as far as 
Shianamwenda (Longo), the Basala chief tainess, who sub- 
mitted to him. 

An old chief named Mukubu, living in Busala, is one of 
our informants for much of this history. He is indeed one 
of the most interesting men we have ever met. He was 
taken as a lad by Sebitwane from Longo and brought up in 
Barotsiland. He has described to us the coming of Living- 
stone and Oswell (" Mandevu ") ; he was present when the 
fatal accident befell Sebitwane ; he later became Living- 
stone's servant, travelled with him to the west coast, and 
was with him when he discovered the Victoria Falls. He 
accompanied Sekeletu to Chimbulamukoa. Later he went 
with Livingstone as far as Zumbo. He seems to have had a 
share in all the subsequent fighting. He piloted the pioneers 
of the Baila-Batonga mission from Barotsiland to Nkala. 
He was then sent by Lewanika back to his native district 
of Busala to act as his representative. We asked him once 
to enumerate the men he had killed in battle, and with 
vivid detail he counted up to thirty-six, nearly all slain 
in single combat ; they included representatives of most of 
the tribes against whom in his days the Makololo and 
Barotsi have fought. 

While Sebitwane was still at Kapoli he had once again 
to meet a Matabele impi. He had sent an army under 



t'T. 1 

one of his captains, Shili, to cross the Zambesi and raid 
Umzihgazi's cattle. He succeeded to some extent, but the 

Photo E. W. Smith. 

MuKUBU, Dr. Livingstone's Servant. 

infuriated Matabele followed hard upon his heels. Hearing 
of their approach, Sebitwane withdrew to Sachitema and 
there at the mountain named by the Makololo thaha ea 

CH. n 


basalt ("the women's mountain") a battle was fought; it 
raged all day and all night, and at dawn the survivors of the 
defeated Matabele fled. The name of the place is derived 
from the fact that even the women joined furiously in the 

Now once again, while Sebitwane was among the Basala, 
he heard that the Matabele were coming against him. 
Urged by a native prophet, who declared it to be the spirits' 
will that he should conquer the Barotsi, or Baloiana as 
they called themselves, he determined to go west and estab- 
lish himself in security. His path led through Chiyadila, 
Makunko, Kabanga, Banamwazi — the people fleeing at his 
approach — thence through Buchele and landa. He turned 
aside to fight Kaingu, who fled. Thence he passed through 
the Mankoya and Matotela countries, and at last reached 
the Barotsi. At that time they were much divided amongst 
themselves, but Mobukwano, the chief, made a spirited 
appeal to them, and was able to get together a large army. 
At Kataba Sebitwane fought a battle against them, the 
result of which was the establishment of his ascendancy 
over them. He now settled at Naliele. He had been 
there but a month when he heard that the Matabele who 
had dogged his steps were at hand. They were under the 
leadership of Ngabe, who, some say, had been exiled by 
Umziligazi, and was looking for a country in which to settle 
with his people. At once Sebitwane made one of his masterly 
strategic movements to the rear. He crossed the Zambesi 
and went on to the Lueti River. He was there advised that 
the country ahead contained but brackish water, and that it 
was a twenty days' journey across those mahala a letsuai 
t-C'salt-plains "). Thereupon he slew many cattle, out of whose 
hides he made large water-bags, which when filled he loaded 
upon other oxen, and marched, giving imperative orders 
for the economical use of the water. After crossing the 
dreary wastes, Sebitwane, in his incorrigible fashion, fell 
upon and defeated Salupito, the Mambukushu chief. Mean- 
while the Matabele were following swiftly after, and before 
they realised the position, found themselves in the midst 
of the desert with no water and no food. They had at last 
to take to chewing their shields, sandals, and other bits of 


dry skin. When they were almost at their last gasp, Sebi- 
twane fell upon them. There were some women and children 
among the survivors, and these were kept. Of the men, 
only ten reached again the bank of the Lueti ; keeping 
along the bank of the Zambesi, they crossed it at Sesheke 
and went on to Sekute, the Balea chief, who pretended to 
help, but marooned them on an island in the Zambesi. 
They tried to swim to the southern bank, but only one 
succeeded, and he, Ndoza by name, was the sole survivor, 
it is said, out of that great impi who got back to Umziligazi. 
What reception he met with we are not told. 

This was not the last time the Makololo and Matabele 
met in what was really a contest for the dominion over 
these tribes. The Matabele came again and again, but were 
always worsted. By the time the last expedition reached the 
Zambesi Sebitwane was fully master of the whole territory, 
and was able to patrol the river so effectively that they 
could not cross, although they had with extraordinary 
labour brought canoes with them. When they were on 
the point of starving on the south bank, Sebitwane sent 
messengers, driving some fat cattle, who asked why they 
should persist in attacking their chief, who had never done 
them harm, and who, they added, thinking they might 
be rather hungry, had now sent them " a little bread." 
Mukubu, who was there, tells us that Sebitwane sent in 
fifty oxen, then fifty more, as the Matabele were still hungry, 
until in all three hundred had been consumed. Sebitwane 
had conquered : the Matabele never attacked him again. 

For five years after the battle of Kataba, Sebitwane 
was fully engaged in consolidating his rule over the Barotsi 
and other tribes. By his kindly disposition and wise rule 
he quickly conciliated the peoples whom the terror of his 
arms had taught to fear him. 

In previous years the Barotsi had sent marauding 
expeditions against the wealthy cattle -owning Ba-ila. 
Mulambwa, grandfather of the late Barotsi chief Lewanika, 
had sent one at least. We are told of a people called the 
Bashituchila from the far east, who, after raiding the Ba-ila 
cattle, passed on and informed the Barotsi, inciting them 
to do the same, but who these were we do not know. And 



now Sebitwane, with the threefold purpose of plundering 
cattle and estabUshing and extending his dominion, led or 
sent three armies at various times against the Ba-ila and 

The first of these, led by his nephew Mpepe, brought 
back herds of cattle and numbers of slaves, after killing 
Kaingu and Mushanana, two prominent chiefs. The cattle 
came mostly from Bambwe and Lubwe. Old men still 
recall the terror caused by the coming of Mpepe. The 
Makololo called this ntoa ea makana (" the war of the axes ") 
because of the battle-axes with which Sebitwane had armed 

The second raid was named by the Makololo Hoia-hoia, 
or the Kasenga war, and was noteworthy for the amount 
of cattle taken at Kasenga and Nyambo. Their leaders 
were Munangombe, who raided the country south, and 
Muzazani, who raided that north of the Kafue. An old 
chief, Nakabanga, now living at Busangu, was, as a lad, 
one of those carried away captive on this occasion. With 
others he fled across the river to get away from Muna- 
ngombe, only to fall into Muzazani's hands on the other side. 
He was taken to Kazungula, and remained there until on 
becoming a man he made good his escape. He tells us that 
Muzazani met on the other side of the Kafue a man named 
Saidi coming down from the north, who subsequently went 
to Linyanti. This man, Saidi, is frequently mentioned 
in the accounts we have received of the old days. The 
Nanzela people say he visited them, evidently on his return 
from Linyanti, and passed to the north-east, crossing the 
river at Kaundu. He is said to have travelled with a large 
gang of men tied to a chain ; some speak of his constant 
bowing to earth in the attitude of prayer ; others say he 
would only eat of an animal whose throat he had himself 
cut. Evidently an Arab slave-trader. We are inclined to 
identify him with Said ibn Habib, the slave-trader men- 
tioned so often in Livingstone's Last Journals, and with the 
Ibn Habib who, as Livingstone tells us, visited Sekeletu in 
1854,^ 3^nd advised and led him to attack the people at 

'^ Cameron, in Feb. 1874, mentions this man at Ujiji ; says he had met 
Livingstone both in Sekeletu's country and Manyuema, 



Chimbulamukoa. If this be correct, it is the first notice 
we have of the operations of the Arab slave-traders among 
the Ba-ila. 

The third raid ordered by Sebitwane and conducted by 
Mpepe was notable by reason of the death of the chief 

We must here interrupt our narrative in order to bring 
up the story of the Nanzela people to the time of Sezongo's 
death. ^ They, like the Baluba, are immigrants from a 
distance who have won for themselves a residence in Ila 
territory, but who, unlike the Baluba, have adopted the Ila 
tongue. They come from Barotsi country in the neighbour- 
hood of Lealui, and their chiefs claim kinship with the Mu- 
lambwa mentioned above. Mulambwa's two daughters, 
Mofwe and Kalube, married, it is said, two men named 
Kalenge and Mwansha. One of Kalenge's servants went to 
visit a party of the newly arrived Makololo, and found them 
catching fish ; they gave him some, and he took a portion 
to his master. Irritated by the fact that these strangers 
were poaching on their preserves, Kalenge and Mwansha 
led their people against them, but, being worsted, they left 
their home and settled in the district of Mutondo, and 
subsequently on the Lui. There the Makololo came on them 
with peremptory orders to return to their homes in the 
valley, but after much altercation they were allowed to go 
their way. Kalenge then led his followers from place to 
place till they reached Mwange on the Nanzela River. At 
each place, it is said, they slew or drove away the previous 
inhabitants. They removed to the Kalenge River, and 
there a certain Shachibinzha rebelled against Kalenge and 
Mwansha and compassed their death. It is from that 
circumstance that the river derives its name. Shachibinzha 
now became chief, and moved his people to Nkumbi in the 
neighbourhood of Sachitema. There he became famous, 
but not for long In five years' time Sezongo deserted him 
and established himself as chief at Nakalomwe. He was a 
great hunter and grew rich on the proceeds of the elephants 

^ We have a short history of these people written for us by Thomas 
Sezongo, son of Munaswaba, Sezongo II., from information collected by 
him from the old men, especially Leselo. 



he killed, and all his wealth in cattle, slaves, ivory, and 
impande shells he lavished upon those who would help him 
to gratify his revenge or ambition upon Shachibinzha. He 
executed his purpose and became chief in Shachibinzha's 
place. He established his villages at Namadindi, between 
Mwanakaba and Kasamo, and became great in the land. 
The neighbouring Ba-ila took up arms against the intruder, 
but were soon glad to leave him in possession of the district 
he had seized. 

It seems to have been at this time that the numbers 
of his people were reinforced by union with some immigrants 
from Munga in the Batonga country. He carried on war 
against his neighbours and added the captives to the number 
of his subjects. He also bought many people for ivory. 
This explains why it is that the Nanzela people (Balumbu) 
are such a mixture of Batonga, Ba-ila, Mankoya, Matotela, 
Barotsi, and others. 

The sudden appearance of about three hundred Mata- 
bele, fugitives from Sebitwane, caused great perturbation at 
Nchelenge, but, calling his people together, Sezongo calmly 
proposed to destroy the unwelcome visitors by stratagem. 
He prepared a great feast, to which the hungry and un- 
suspecting Matabele were invited. They responded gladly, 
and enjoyed a good meal and — beer. After a time Sezongo 
sent to inspect them, but learnt that the deadly mantemhe 
drink had not yet taken effect. The next inspection 
revealed the fact that the dreaded Matabele were lying 
moribund. Then at Sezongo's orders to spare only the 
children, the men seized their axes and the women their 
hoes and speedily despatched the helpless fugitives. Only 
the young boys and girls were kept ; their descendants are 
still there. The heads were chopped round above the 
ears and the crania placed in shizongo baskets and taken 
to the chief to be used as goblets : hence his name Sezongo. 
The native report of this dastardly massacre invariably 
ends with a tribute to the chief's prowess : Choheni kadi 
mulomhwana chinichini (" He was truly very much a 

It was at Namadindi that the Makololo army found 
Sezongo, A very old man told us that he remembers the 



incident, and declares that Sebitwane came in peison with 
Mpepe. Sebitwane, he says, had called upon Sezongo to 
pay tribute as the Ba-ila chiefs were doing, but Sezongo 
defied him. The Ba-ila chiefs along the south bank of the 
Kafue, from Lubwe to Kabulamwanda, for once agreed 
to combine against Sebitwane in support of Sezongo, but 
the league dissolved upon the approach of the Makololo, and 
he was left to face the conqueror's wrath alone. His people 
were in terror, but he calmly put aside their advice to seek 
safety in flight, went on with his preparations, and sent out 
scouts. " They are in clouds, not as men, but as locusts ; 
let us flee," reported the craven scouts. But Sezongo 
stood his ground. His younger brother, Shambala, basely 
deserted with many people, and Sezongo, with a greatly 
diminished force, found himself surrounded by the Mako- 
lolo. The little band fought bravely, but it was a hopeless 
struggle ; after a time their store of spears and arrows was 
exhausted, and they had only their axes. The Makololo 
pressed their advantage, but Sezongo refused to yield. 
Seizing an icheha (a kind of cutlass), he charged them again 
and again, and clove many heads, and all the time his drums 
were sounding defiance against the invaders. On he fought, 
while one by one his followers fell — all save his shamanga 
(personal attendant) and the drummers. " Don't kill him, 
take him alive," shouted the Makololo, but, with blood 
pouring from many wounds, he refused to yield or be cap- 
tured, and wielded his icheha with such skill and power 
that the unequal contest was long in drawing to a close. 
Finally, he was beaten to his knees, and fell pierced with 
many spears. His shamanga shared his fate, and the 
drummers were taken alive. 

When the Makololo had departed, the fugitives came 
creeping back to their homes, and sent word to Shambala 
that his brother was dead. On inheriting the chiefship, 
Shambala went to live at Kakuse ; after his death his 
nephew Munaswaba became chief. His first act was to kill 
all Shambala's councillors ; then he removed to Kasangu 
and later to Manimbwa, where the tribe still lives. He 
traded much with the Mambari slavers, not selling people, 
but buying them for ivory. Like the heroic Sezongo I., 








he was a great hunter, and in this way used his skill to build 
up his power. He became a chief of much weight, but was 
averse from fighting when he could get his way otherwise. 
The Basanga people, and later they of Lubwe, put in claims 
to the land that he occupied, and his councillors strongly 
advised to resist the claims by arms. But he agreed to 
pay ; the Basanga received two slaves and a hundred hoes, 
and the Lubwe people a similar amount, and thus he secured 
indisputable possession of the locality, where his people have 
lived ever since. Sezongo H., as we knew Munaswaba, 
died in 1904, and since then his people, who had been getting 
out of hand during his later years, have become much 
divided among themselves, largely owing to the weakness 
of his successors. Sezongo HL died mysteriously, most 
people said by poison. Sezongo IV. died in prison, where he 
was serving a sentence for inciting to murder. 

Going back to Sebitwane, we may notice here that in 
185 1 he met Livingstone and Oswell at Linyanti, the first 
Europeans to visit this part of Africa. He was then, Living- 
stone tells us, a man under fifty. Into his short life he had 
crowded an amazing course of adventure and conquest, 
but now his end was near, and he died in July that year. 
It is perhaps worth recording that there is a difference 
between Livingstone's and the native accounts of his death. 
Livingstone says : " He fell ill of pneumonia set up by the 
irritation of some old spear wounds in his chest." ^ The 
native story is this : Livingstone had a horse named Sekarebe 
(? Scarab) which Sebitwane was eager to ride, but Living- 
stone refused, saying it was too wild. Sebitwane persisted, 
and at last the Doctor yielded. The horse set off at a canter, 
and Sebitwane rode it to the intense admiration of his 
assembled subjects. Coming back, the chief whipped it 
to a gallop, the multitude burst into a cheer, and the horse, 
making a sudden swerve, threw him. As they picked him 
up, Sebitwane said, " My children, it has broken me." 
Next day Livingstone had the people assembled, and asked 
them whether they blamed him for their chief's accident ; 
and they exonerated him, saying that Sebitwane had only 

^ Missionary Travels, p. 77 ; W. E. Oswell, The Life oj W. C. Oswell 
(London, 1900), vol. i. p. 246. 


himself to blame for insisting on riding a horse he had been 
warned against. Six days later Sebitwane died.^ 

It was at this time that, as far as we can ascertain, the 
existence of the Ba-ila first became known to the outside 
world. The}'' were first mentioned in the following para- 
graph written by Dr. Livingstone, and published in England 
in July 1852. The Mambari, he says, came to Sebitwane 
in 1850, " carrying great quantities of cloth and a few old 
Portuguese guns marked Legitimo de Braga, and though 
cattle and ivory were offered in exchange, everything was 
refused, except boys about fourteen years of age. The 
Makololo viewed the traffic with dislike, but having great 
numbers of the black race living in subjection to them, they 
were too easily persuaded to give these for the guns. Eight 
of these old useless guns were given to Sebitwane for as 
many boys. They then invited the Makololo to go on a foray 
against the Bashikulompo, stipulating beforehand that, in 
consideration of the use to be made of their guns in the 
attack on the tribe, they should receive all the captives, 
while the Makololo should receive all the cattle. . . . The 
Mambari went off with about 200 slaves, bound in chains, 
and both parties were so well pleased with the new customers 
that they promised to return in 185 1." ^ Livingstone tells 
us that on this foray the Makololo met some Arabs from 
Zanzibar who presented them with three English muskets 
and in return received about thirty of their captives. 
Evidently this was the raid referred to on p. 33. 

These Mambari, from Bihe in Portuguese West Africa, 
paid visits subsequently to, and probably before this ; indeed 
it is only within quite recent years that, under the stress of 
British rule, they abandoned their piratory excursions. It 
would be a mistake to suppose that they simply raided slaves 
or bought them for export or for use on the Portuguese 
plantations. They seem to have had two objects — slaves 
and ivory ; where they could they bought both with the 

^ This story was first brought to our notice by Mr. F. V. Worthington, 
and we have since been told it, quite spontaneously, by various old men in 
different parts of the country. 

^ This paragraph was kindly communicated to us by Rev. A. Baldwin, 
who took it from an old Life of Livingstone. It was originally published in 
the Missionary Magazine. 


goods they carried with them, but when it was to their 
advantage they did not mind bartering the one for the 
other. They bought much ivory from the Ba-ila for slaves. 
This fact is to be remembered when thinking of the mixed 
condition of the Ba-ila and the ravages of the slave-trade. 

The Mambari had a friend in Mpepe among the Makololo, 
and he assisted them in their raids among the Ba-ila and 
Batonga. Dr. Livingstone has described the machinations 
of this man against Sekeletu, Sebitwane's successor, and his 
violent death in 1853. 

Sekeletu renewed the forays upon the Ba-ila, and in 
1854-55 extended his travels as far as Chimbulamukoa, 
in the neighbourhood of the great Lukanga swamp. There 
had been quarrels among the Baluba chiefs, with the 
result that fighting took place between the adherents of 
Mabanga and Kaindu. Kaindu's brother was slain ; and, 
on the other side, Mabanga was killed and finally his people 
were driven from their homes. The heir, Shipopa by 
name, fled for refuge to the chief Chinga Kaingu at 
Itumbi. There was another fugitive there, an Ila chief 
named Shimudizhi from Nanungwe, a gentle rascal 
whose pleasant foible it was to raid his neighbours and 
put out the eyes of as many as he could capture, until 
one day they rounded on him and drove him out. These 
two sent to invite Sekeletu to come to their help ; Ibn 
Habib put in a word for a foray upon Chimbulamukoa, 
and Sekeletu, nothing loth, set out with a great army for 
the Kafue. Once at the river, he divided his forces; one 
party went up the river in canoes and other parties swept 
across country. From several old men we have heard of 
the horror of that time, when, as they said, the nights 
were lit up by the innumerable camp-fires of the raiders. 
Villages were burnt, cattle swept away, women and children 
captured, old people ruthlessly massacred, and great numbers 
of men killed and taken prisoners. They left behind them a 
devastated, famine-stricken land. So dire was the famine 
that, as one old man told us, if a person were lucky enough 
to find a grain of corn he would jealously hide it in his 
impumhe till sowing time. 

On another occasion Sekeletu sent his generals, Leshodi 

CH. 11 HISTORY 41 

and Katukula, to loot cattle from Monze, Banakaila, and 
other places. The Makololo called this raid Bungwidimha 
(" a flock of pigeons "), because the looted cattle were very 
many but very small. 

Sekeletu died in 1863 (strangled, says Mukubu) and 
was succeeded by Mamili, who was driven away by Mbololo, 
the last of the Makololo dynasty. His reign of cruelty 
aroused the Barotsi, who had suffered the Makololo yoke 
all this time, and, led by Sepopa and his captain Njekwa, 
they expelled Mbololo and exterminated the Makololo, 
saving the women. The revolution resulted in Sepopa 
becoming chief in August 1864. In 1866 he sent an ex- 
pedition against the Batonga, and in 1871 against the Ba-ila. 

According to another account he sent no expedition 
against the Ba-ila, as by now they were paying tribute 
regularly. His induna in charge of the collection of the 
tribute, a man named Musisimi, had trouble with the 
Bwengwa people, and was killed by them while trying to 
enforce the payment. Sepopa would have led a punitive 
expedition against them, but was killed by the Barotsi 
before he could put his plans into execution. Musisimi's 
death was avenged by an army led by Lutango.^ Sepopa 
was succeeded by Mwanawina, the son of Sebeso, his younger 
brother. In 1878 he ordered a raid upon the Ba-ila. Moku- 
besa, who was to collect the army, seized the opportunity 
of overthrowing Mwanawina in favour of Lobosi (Lewanika) . 
Lobosi, who was born in 1842, was made chief, and, with 
one lengthy interval spent in exile, ruled until his death 
in February 1916. His policy, probably inherited from 
Makololo predecessors, was to extend his empire in all 
directions and to impose upon all subject-races Barotsi 
customs and the Kololo dialect, which, although the Mako- 
lolo had been wiped out, was still the official language. He 
took young men from the provinces, reared them at his 
court, and sent them home as his representatives, thoroughly 

^ This information comes from the Barotsi, but the Ba-ila say that 
Sepopa arrived in person. There seems to be some misapprehension here, 
for the Ba-ila will have it that Sepopa and Lutango were one and the same, 
whereas from Barotsi sources we learn that Lutango was Sepopa's ngambela 
(chief councillor), and was the leader of the rebellion against him in 1876. 


In 1882 he led an army against the Ba-ila. On arrival 
at Manimbwa he reassured Sezongo's people, who were 
terror-stricken at the sight of this great army. " You are 
my children, do not fear," he said. " I am going to the Ba-ila 
and Batonga. If any of you wish to fight, come with us." 
A number volunteered, and Lewanika pressed on to the 
Ba-ila, raiding the cattle from Bambwe, Kasenga, Kabula- 
mwanda, and Bwengwa. On arriving among the Batonga 
he divided his army, sending one party back under Katema 
to complete the raiding of the Ba-ila, while he swept through 
the Batonga country, and so home. Huge herds of cattle 
were driven off and a great many Ba-ila were left killed, while 
the Barotsi loss was but small. It was the custom of the 
Barotsi to decapitate every enemy slain and give his cal- 
varium as a drinking-cup to a warrior who had distinguished 
himself in the fight. Armed with guns, kerries, and shields, 
the Barotsi had no great difficulty in overcoming the Ba-ila. 
who had only their thro wing-spears. On the return of the 
expedition to Barotsiland the spoil was divided : slaves, 
cattle, and other things. Many of the warriors, it is said, 
had secretly conveyed to their homes a large portion of 
their booty, so that, after receiving their share as well from 
the common stock, they became rich at the expense of the 

In 1888 came the final Barotsi razzia, Lewanika's second, 
upon the Ba-ila. The Rev. F. Coillard has left on record 
an account of the starting of this expedition. He writes : 
" The Barotsi, unlike the Makololo, are not a pastoral 
people. . . . Here all are immolated, without distinction 
and without special reason, bulls and heifers, oxen and 
calves. When the herd has vanished, each man looks at 
his neighbour and raises the cry, ' To the Mashukulumbwe ! ' 
. . . During the recent troubles the bovine race has been 
almost literally exterminated in the country. To this 
unbridled prodigality a famine succeeded ; it was only to 
be expected. Then as always the cry arose : ' To the Mashu- 
kulumbwe ! ' " 1 Mr. Coillard expresses his astonishment 
at the number of guns possessed by the Barotsi ; they 

^ F. Coillard, On the Threshold of Central Africa (London, 1897), pp. 298 
et seq. 



were of varied calibre, mostly flintlocks. At the head of 
the army marched a young girl, chosen by means of the 
divining-bones, and regarded as the interpreter of the gods, 
without whom nothing was to be done. Mr. Coillard 
reckoned that when all the contingents were collected 
Lewanika would have from ten to twelve thousand men at 
least. That heroic missionary showed himself a true friend 
of humanity by striving to the utmost to dissuade Lewanika 
from his purpose ; it was in vain, but it was owing to his 
growing influence that this was the last raid that Lewanika 

The great army — great, at least, for Central Africa — 
swept like a hurricane or a cloud of locusts through the 
Ila country. In the absence of any cohesion among the 
various communities resistance was vain. Some desultory 
fighting took place, and some stragglers from the main bands 
were cut off, but otherwise the loss among the invaders was 
very small. Many of the Ba-ila fled to their refuges in the 
mountains, but Lewanika had divided his army into sections, 
some of which crossed the Kafue, and escape was almost 
impossible. Some of the chiefs surrendered without any 
show of resistance. Shaloba of Lubwe, for example, asked 
to be allowed to submit and pay tribute, and on receiving 
permission took a stick and walking through his great herd 
of cattle divided it into two, handing the larger portion 
over to the Barotsi. In other cases, as with Shapela on the 
north bank, the chiefs not only surrendered but gave much 
help to the invaders. Some showed more spirit. A man 
named Katimbila was compelled to ferry a number of Barotsi 
across the Kafue ; in mid-stream, by an adroit move, he 
seized a spear, drove it into one of them, capsized the rest 
into the river and escaped to land. The women suffered 
with the rest, and many were carried away by their captors. 
The wife of one chief, Mwashaboya, was so distressed by the 
death of her husband that she threw herself into the river, 
saying that she had no desire to live longer. 

After leading his men in person — and the sight of him 
on horseback was a new terror to the Ba-ila— Lewanika 
returned with the greater part of the army to Barotsiland, 
leaving another section to complete the devastation in the 


Mbeza district and the hills to the east. At Mbeza this 
army met with a reverse, for the inhabitants called upon 
Mapanza and others to help them, and overpowered the 
Barotsi. Until a few years ago a pile of skulls was ex- 
hibited as a trophy of victory over the invaders, exhibited, 
indeed, until an English hunting-party desecrated the sacred 
enclosure, taking one of the skulls away with them, which 
so disgusted the natives that they neglected the place 

This expedition lasted five months, and the invaders 
returned home in August 1888 with an immense booty in 
women, children, and cattle. Mr. Coillard was assured that 
more cattle died on the way than arrived, but even so it 
would take a month, he said, to distribute the rest after 
Lewanika had taken his share. 

Thus far of the raids from north and west ; now we 
turn east and south. The Angoni from far-off Nyasaland 
once at least pushed their forays as far as the Basodi living 
north of the lower Kafue, but they do not seem to have 
reached the Ba-ila. Many years ago the Bambala were 
twice raided by the Bachikundi from Portuguese country 
south of the Zambesi. Their leader was Kanyemba. Mr. 
Selous, who met this man in 1877, describes him as " a 
full-blooded black man . . . who possesses both the will 
and the power to do immense harm, a slave-trader and 
a murderer." ^ He seems to have come originally from the 
lower Zambesi in the Tete district ; he was then living 
on an island' in the Zambesi near the mouth of the Kafue. 
He had a host of followers armed with flintlocks, and these 
he sent or led raiding, always taking care to preface a raid 
by sending a letter to the Governor of Tete complaining of 
injury done to Portuguese trade and subjects, and asking 
for a permis de guerre. We have no details of these razzias 
on the Bambala. 

Nor were these all. The Matabele on their expeditions 
against Sebitwane had heard of the wealth of the Ba-ila in 
cattle, and directed two of their raids upon them. In the 
first they reached Bwengwa and went off with much boot}^, 

^ F. C. Selous, A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa (London, 1907), pp. 




In the second they raided all the country on the south of 
the Kafue, from Kabulamwanda to Nkala. The memory 

Photo E. II : S»! Uh. 

Leselo, one of our Informants. 
A Balumbu Type. 

of this raid is still very vivid in the minds of the Ba-ila, and 
they cannot repress a groan when they recall the immense 


herds of cattle captured, the numbers of their people carried 
off, and the famine that ensued upon the destruction of 
their crops. There was little opposition to the fierce warriors 
of Lobengula — Ngwalungwalu, as the Ba-ila call him. When 
we remarked on this, one old man said : "If you were in 
a hut and guns were pointed in at you on all sides would 
you put up a fight ? " Many of the Matabele lost their 
lives by drowning in the swamps. The Ba-ila drove their 
cattle through the floods into the islands, and the Matabele, 
eager in pursuit, though by nature timorous in water, 
became submerged. Some of their guns were found after- 
wards when the waters subsided. Many Ba-ila were carried 
away, and though some escaped subsequently and re- 
turned to their homes, the majority are still among the 

In 1892-93 there was another raid of the Matabele, but 
they did not reach the Ba-ila, as they were swept away by 
smallpox while among the Batonga. As two of the best 
impis were on this expedition, their loss was heavily felt 
in the subsequent war against the British South Africa 

A few years later the rinderpest, on its way through 
Africa, swept across the Ila country, causing huge devasta- 
tion among the cattle, and thus striking another blow at 
the Ba-ila in this their tenderest point. 

4. Contact of the Ba-ila with Europeans 

Who the first European was to enter the Ila country we 
cannot determine. It may very well be that in early days 
Portuguese travellers, passing from west to east, or from east 
to west, traversed this territory ; for it appears from what 
Major Serpa Pinto says^ that the ordinary trade route from 

^ SerTpa.Pinto, How I Crossed Africa (London, 1881), vol. ii. p. 115: "The 
Biheno pombeiros are accustomed to pass to the north of the Lui, cross 
the country of the Machachas and at length come upon an enormous river 
which they call the Loengue. That river they use in their trade journeys, 
and know it well from its very source. They go down it in their canoes 
to its mouth, where it assumes the name of Cafucue. ... It is rare to find 
a Biheno who travels at all who has not been at Cainco." In August 1878 
Pinto was at Lealui intending to follow this route and explore the Kafue, 


Angola to Ziimbo passed through Kaingu, and down the 
Kafue, but so far as we know there is no record of such 

It is certain that in more recent years travellers entered 
the country and left no record, for the simple reason that 
they never emerged ahve. Mr. Coillard, writing in 1888, 
says that within the last few years he had heard of Portu- 
guese traders, of the son of a missionary he knew, and of his 
partner, a young Englishman, who had been massacred by 
the Ba-ila. 

Dr. Livingstone is the first traveller in this country of 
whom we have an authentic record, and he passed just 
outside the confines of the Ila territory. The Balumbu of 
Nanzela remember seeing him while they were living near 
Kalomo. Various old men, like Mukubu and Nakabanga, 
taken when young by the Makololo and since returned to 
their homes, have spoken to us of meeting and travelling 
with him ; the impression made upon their minds by him 
was so strong that they declare he was more than man. 
He was, as we have seen, the first to write of the Ba-ila ; 
he met a party of them in the neighbourhood of Monze in 
1855. In his original map of the Zambesi, made in 1853- 
1854, he has incorporated information derived from natives, 
and on it we can recognise, wrongly placed, the names of 
Mokobela, Sealoba, and Mosianana : chiefs bearing those 
titles are still living. 

The first white man spoken of by the people as having 
passed through their country came from the west and 
travelled east. This seems to have been some fifty-five 
years ago. He travelled quite alone, without food or arms 
or attendants. He appeared suddenly at Lubwe, and an 
old man there has given us a graphic description of the 
event. He was middle - aged, thin, and pale ; all have 
remarked upon his paleness, using the word hwalangana, 
("transparent"). When his fingers hung down they say 

but was prevented by Lewanika. Silva Porto (in 1853-54) followed the 
route from the West Coast to Naliele (on the Zambesi), then to Kaingu 
(Cahinga), and to Cahimbe (? Kazembe) and on to the East Coast. See 
the map in The Lands of Cazembe, translated and annotated by Captain 
R. F. Burton (London, 1873). 



PT. I 

you could see the blood flowing into them. He was evidently 
in a state of exhaustion upon his arrival at Lubwe, for he 
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the men was smoking. In his pocket he had a small packet 
of powdered tobacco (opium?), and fining the pipe with 
difficulty he smoked a few minutes, . coughing violently. 


Then he fell back insensible, and they threw water on him. 
On recovering he struggled to his feet and pursued his 
journey eastwards. He appeared later at Mala, to the 
consternation of the people, who fled at the unwonted sight. 
Nobody could understand him, nor be understood by him ; 
he would eat none of the food offered to him, and after a 
short rest he went on his way along the Kafue. The figure 
of this lonely traveller in mid-Africa is one that appeals 
to the imagination, and it would be interesting to know his 
identity and subsequent history. 

We have heard that the next to visit the Ba-ila were two 
travellers named Chingaingai and Mitelo, who came from 
the west and passed away east. They are said to have been 
in search of ivory. Some say they were carried in machilas 
and were Bazungu, i.e. Portuguese, but others affirm they 
wore long flowing robes and sandals like Arabs. Some 
thirty to forty years ago three travellers, named by the 
natives Shimonze, Machenjezha, and Chikwasa, came from 
the east and went west. They carried long guns and brought 
goods with which to buy ivory. These appear to have 
been Portuguese. 

The Balumbu of Nanzela also tell of three " Matem- 
bezhi " who came many years ago from the south beyond 
Mangwato. They were sportsmen, as is evident from the fact 
that thev took only the trophies of the animals they killed. 
They may have been either Griqua or Boer hunters. 

The earliest traveller actually among the Ba-ila who has 
left a record was Dr. Emil Holub (1847-1902), a native of 
Bohemia, who in 1872 went to the Kimberley mines, where 
he practised as a surgeon. With a companion named Oswald 
Sollner and Mrs. Holub he arrived at the Zambesi in June 
1886 with the intention of exploring the country to the 
north, and crossing the continent to Egypt ; they were 
thus the first to set out on the " Cape - to - Cairo " 
route. ^ From Kazungula he passed over the plateau 
towards the Ha country, via Mapanza, everywhere hearing 

^ Dr. Emil Holub, Von der Capstadt ins Land der Maschukulumbe. 
Reisen ini sudlichen Afrika in den Jahren i8S3-iS8y, i vols. (Wien, 
Alfred Holder, i8go). (No English translation.) We have also a local 
newspaper report of a lecture given by Dr. Holub at Kimberley after his 



the worst tidings of the wild people to the north, and 
being strongly advised not to visit them. On enter- 
ing the Bwila he noted that, although four years before 
Lewanika had taken more than 40,000 head of cattle, it was 
a loss hardly to be noticed among the great herds that 
remained. They passed through Mbeza, Kabulamwanda, 
Kasenga to Busangu. The rascally behaviour of the natives 
of these last two places, he says, so terrified his servants that 
one dark night many of them deserted. The Ba-ila came 
to attack them, but they were on the watch, and the attempt 
failed. They then endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to maroon 
them on an island in the Kafue. On the north bank of the 
river they found " every day an endless torture." Once, 
they believed, an attempt was made to poison them. On 
the way from Nyambo to Lulonga many of their possessions 
were pillaged. They were told of Portuguese living beyond 
the hills that Holub named the Franz- Josefs Berge, and 
determined to make their way thither. At Lulonga they 
left Sollner with the donkeys and most of the remaining 
goods, while they. Dr. and Mrs. Holub, went forward to 
explore. Holub's account, in the twenty7fourth chapter 
of his book, of their adventures on that second day of 
August makes excellent reading. The night was so black 
as they stole out of camp at i a.m. that, after feeling about 
with their hands for the path, they had soon to retrace their 
steps towards the village and wait for dawn, at which, says 
he pathetically, " I should like to have been able to cry, 
if only it were possible." At daybreak they followed a path 
into the swamps, through water breast-deep at times, with 
thick mud underfoot, so viscid that they lost their boots. 
On they blundered, slipping, falling, for six hours, Holub 
at times carrying his wife (who behaved most pluckily 
throughout), and at last emerged and reached a village. 
The chief gave them guides, and they went on some distance 
towards the pass ; but Holub was seized by a presentiment 
that all was not well, and by dire threats compelled the 
guides to divulge the chief's instructions. As for the 
Portuguese — there were none-. He awoke to what he be- 
lieved to be the plans of the Ba-ila : to separate him from 
vSollner, then to kill them all. He gave the order to return, 


and they waded through the swamp again, this time in two 
hours. On approaching Lulonga they discovered one of 
their men hiding in the reeds, and from him heard of the 
catastrophe that had befallen " the Austro-Hungarian- 
African expedition." The camp had been attacked, Sollner 
mortally wounded by spears, and the goods plundered. 
Holub ascribes it all to Sollner's philanthropy : " The mis- 
placed confidence he showed them always and everywhere 
cost him his life." What was immediately valuable to 
the Ba-ila had been carried off ; books and scientific instru- 
ments and other things were lying littered about, and 
among them Holub descried what he accounted most precious 
of all — diaries. As he warily collected these, the Ba-ila crept 
up behind, and it seemed that he would be cut off, but Mrs. 
Holub saved the situation. Beyond saying that she seized 
a gun and enabled him to escape, Holub is rather vague, 
and it is at this point, we think, some details supplied by 
the ratives will fit in most naturally. They say that Mrs. 
Holub fired and killed one man, fired a second time, and 
killed both a man and a woman, and that this scared the 
Ba-ila. Dr. Holub, they add, did nothing, but with his 
arms full of his precious records he was, as he says himself, 
helpless. The Ba-ila drew off, and the way was open for 
their escape. Leaving Sollner's body unvisited and un- 
buried — if indeed he were already dead, which they do not 
seem to have ascertained— they set off towards the south. 
Once the Ba-ila tried to block the path, but a volley into 
their midst scattered them. After another painful march 
through swamps they reached the open plain, newly burnt 
and covered with short thick stubble, across which they 
made their way. Their bare feet were severely punished, 
" every step was accompanied by sighs and groans." With 
the intense heat, thirst, and hunger they suffered such 
agonies that after a three hours' march they were giddy 
and bordering on insensibility. Parties of Ba-ila hovered 
near, but they were not again molested — by this time they 
were beyond caring whether they were killed or not — and 
after nightfall reached the Kafue at the point where they 
had crossed. They were glad to make a scanty supper off 
a fragment of half-rotten pumpkin they found in a field. 


They discovered a small canoe on an islet in the stream, 
but when, for the promise of a gun, one of the men swam 
over and fetched it they found it useless, for it would hold 
only one person. A further promise of a double-barrelled 
gun induced the man to seek another canoe on the opposite 
bank, and so in twos they reached the islet. Then a fearful 
storm — very unusual for August — broke out and the high 
waves seemed to make it impossible to go farther, until at 
last, spurred by the necessity of getting past the Busangu 
villages before dawn, Holub ventured to cross. At midnight 
he stood on the south bank, and at last, twenty-four hours 
after stealing out of their camp at Lulonga, they were all 
in comparative safety. Ultimately, on August 22, they 
reached the Zambesi in an " utterly prostrate and destitute 

We get the impression that in all this affair Dr. Holub 
displayed a lack of courage and tact in dealing with the 
Ba-ila. We think he was over-suspicious at times, often led 
astray by his Batonga or Barotsi interpreters, and that if 
at the first he had been more tactful with the people, had 
understood them better, and had shown a bolder front, he 
would have had a milder adventure. Some of the pictures 
in his book excite us to laughter. 

The Ba-ila are very reticent about it, and mostly deny all 
recollection of Holub. In July 1913 we visited Lulonga 
and quietly questioned the chief Mwanashimabula ; he is 
old enough to remember Holub's visit, but is a newcomer, 
and eager to deny all responsibility. We learn from him 
that during Lewanika's raid in 1888 the Barotsi found 
the chief Zumbwa Shimata (Holub calls him Uschumata- 
Zumbo) and all his people on an island in the swamps, 
and surrounded and annihilated them every one. For some 
time Lulonga was a desolation ; then Musulwe, the over- 
lord, took this Mwanashimabula from Chomba, installed 
him as chief, and gave permission to such of his people who 
wished to remove there, so that the village might be re- 
established. But it has never flourished, and remains the 
most miserable place in the country. 

The story of this misadventure greatly increased the 
dread inspired by other accounts of the Ba-ila, and the next 

CH. ri 


traveller was ver}' strongly urged to give them a wide berth. 
This was Mr, F. C. Selous, the famous hunter. Already in 
1877 he had crossed the Zambesi at Wankie, and made his 
way north to what he called Manicaland, reaching Sitanda 
in January 1878, the first Englishman to visit that district. 
He was out to shoot elephant, but in that respect it was an 
unsatisfactory trip. It was a very wet season ; he nearly 
died of fever and starvation, and Sitanda only wished that 
he might die and leave him in possession of his guns.^ And 
now in 1888 Mr. Selous again crossed the Zambesi on a hunt- 
ing trip. He was minded not to enter Ila countr}^, but after 
leaving the Batonga at Monze's, through some miscalcula- 
tion, he found himself in the midst of the Ba-ila at Minenga's. 
To all appearances the people were friendly, and they con- 
strained Selous to pitch camp in front of the principal 
village, but notwithstanding their friendly demeanour 
they had already determined to massacre the whole party. 
No suspicion of their intention seems to have been enter- 
tained until in the evening Selous heard that all the women 
had been sent from the village. An attack was made shortly 
afterwards ; three guns went off in Selous' face, and a shower 
of spears poured into the camp. How any of them managed 
to escape is a marvel. But the long grass around the village 
favoured them, and into this the survivors made their way. 
Selous became separated from the others, and after many hair- 
breadth escapes, during which he lost his rifle, he ultimately 
reached the Batonga villages and was safe, though almost 
naked and robbed of nearly all he possessed. An explanation 
which somewhat palliates the offence as far as the Ba-ila 
are concerned, is that they were instigated to it by some rebel 
Barotsi, who thought that Selous was in possession of a 
large store of gunpowder, which they wanted for use against 
their own chief. ^ 

^ F. C. Selous, A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa (London, 1907), pp. 
301 et seq. 

^ F. C. Selous, Travel and Adventure in South-East Africa (London, 
1893), pp. 216 et seq. Of the Ba-ila, Selous said : " They are a fine sturdy- 
looking race of men ; very many of them have rather aquiline features 
and are at the same time lighter in colour than their fellows, and it appears 
to me that amongst them there is a strong admixture of some other 
blood than the negro — perhaps Arab or some other North African race," 
p. 220. 


The next comers, and the first settlers among the Ba-ila, 
were the pioneers of the Baila-Batonga Mission of the Primi- 
tive Methodist Church, the Rev. H. and Mrs. Buckenham 
and the Rev. A. Baldwin, who reached Nkala in 1893, and 
the Rev. F. and Mrs. Pickering and Rev. W. Chapman, 
who followed in 1895.^ 

Colonel St. Hill Gibbons, in the course of his explorations 
during 1895-96, passed along the outskirts of the Ha country, 
visiting Nanzela, Nkala, and Musanana. He formed a very 
low opinion of the Ba-ila, whom he described as " quite the 
most hopeless savages it is possible to conceive." " They 
live," he added, " in the finest country in Africa." ^ 

The time was now come when the Ba-ila were to enter 
upon quite a new period of their history In 1895 the 
British South Africa Company by treaty with Lewanika 
extended its operations north of the Zambesi. In 1897 
some of the Batonga chiefs sent a deputation to Bulawayo 
to complain of the white traders who were crossing the 
Zambesi, and for the purpose of regulating trade and keeping 
order a station of the B.S.A. police was established near 
Monze in charge of Captain Drury, 

In 1900 Mr, Cecil Rhodes sent Messrs. Gielgud and 
Anderson to establish a post in the Kafue district, and 
after marching without any molestation through the Ila 
country they built a station at Muyanga on the Upper 

In 1901 came the first, and so far the only, conflict 
between the Company's officials and the Ba-ila. The trouble 
arose out of one of those internecine quarrels among the 
Ba-ila. For some years there had been constant friction 
between Mungalo, a chief at Mala, and Mungaila of Ka- 
ntengwa. On the death of Shambamba at Mala, Mungalo 
was invited to succeed him, but refused on the ground 
that his guardian spirit had warned him that if he acceded 

^ The records of the Mission are found in the following books : Mrs. 
E. W. Smith, Sunshine and Shade in Central Africa, 1907 ; Rev. W. Chap- 
man, A Pathfinder in Central Africa, 191 1 ; Rev. A. Baldwin, A Missionary 
Outpost in Central Africa, 191 4 ; Rev. H.J. Taylor, Cape Town to Kafue, 
1915 ; Mrs. J. A. Kerswell, Romance and Reality of Missionary Life in 
N. Rhodesia, 191 3 (all published at Holborn Hall, E.C.). 

^ A. St. H. Gibbons, Exploration and Hunting in Central Africa 
(London, 1898), pp. 144-5. 


he would die of smallpox as Shambamba had died. The 
position was then offered to and accepted by Mungaila. 
Later on, Mungalo repented or, as he said, his spirit had now- 
given him instructions to assume the chiefship, and a quarrel 
was the result, for Mungaila naturally refused to abdicate. 
Some time afterwards one of Mungaila's men, Mwanankumba, 
took possession of some of Mungalo's land and began to 
build on it. As he refused to move, Mungalo attacked him 
and killed some of his people. Mungaila intervened to 
support his vassal, and as some of the other chiefs stood by 
Mungalo the fight became general. After a while Mungaila 
died — bewitched, it is said — and his younger " brother " took 
his name and position, while his nephew Shibenzu succeeded 
him at Kantengwa. Fighting still went on, and Mungaila 
sent to ask for the help of the European police. It is com- 
monly said that Mungalo sent two blood-stained spears to 
the police camp as a challenge, but it seems that the spears 
really came from Mungaila, who misrepresented the matter 
to secure the help of the police. ' Colonel Harding, with 
other white officers and a host of native allies, marched to 
Mala ; Mungalo fled, was captured, and sent into exile for 
some years. Eventually he was allowed to return to Mala. 
We knew him well. He was a particular friend of one of us, 
and was one of our chief informants on the history and 
customs of the Ba-ila. He died, about seventy years of age, 
in 191 1, We do not agree with Colonel Harding's estimate 
of him : "A lying, servile hypocrite." ^ 

After this incident a police camp was established at 
Nkala. Then in 1903 civil administration was introduced 
into the southern Kafue district, and in 1905 Mr. Dale took 
charge of the greater part of the Ba-ila. 

As a result of these movements the anarchic state of the 
country, as portrayed in the earlier part of this chapter,, 
came to an end ; intercommunal warfare, raids from the 
outside, and slave-trading have all become things of the 
past, and earnest efforts are being made to introduce law 
and order into the country. 

The impression given by this chapter that the relations 

^ Colonel C. Harding, Jn Remotest Barotseland (London, 1905), p. 348. 
He gives his version of these feuds, pp. 343 et seq. 



PT. I 

between the Ba-ila and their neighbours have been uniformly 
hostile for as long a period as can be traced may be modified 

Photo E. jr. Smith. 

MuNGAiLA II., Chief of the Bamala. 

later, but it will remain as a true impression in general. 
The Ba-ila have been little influenced in manner of life by 

cH. n HISTORY 57 

their contact with other tribes. They have asked only to 
be left alone. It is only now that they are beginning to be 
influenced by foreign civilisation. We can claim that our 
account of their life has the advantage of being the descrip- 
tion of a people in their wild, raw state. 



Kasenga. — Shimunenga ruled over Mala, Busangu, Kane, 
Chikome, Chitumbi, and Kalando. After his death these places 
to a large extent became separate chiefdoms. 

{i)Mala. — Split up among three chiefs, Namawale, Uvhwamba, 
and Shinyonge. Namawale's successors : Shamalomo I. and 
Shamalomo II. ; Shinyonge's : Shibwato (or Fumbu), Chibawe, 
and Nalubwe ; Uvhwamba's : Shanchidi, Shambamba, Mungaila 
I., Mungaila II. 

(2) Busangu. — Momba, Namompwe, Mwampwe, Ghanaika, and 
Shimunjele (the two last still living). 

(3) Chikome. — Chambwe, Mpumpa, Mungalo I. and Mungalo II. 

(4) Chitumbi. — Shikodio, Maika, Shimanza, Kasonde, and now 

Kahularnwanda. — Zambwe, Shakavu, Chikoti, and Chinda. 

Kantengwa. — Kantambwe, Shichikoloma, Shitukumba, Na- 
mamba, Chomwa. 

Banibwe. — Sheebelelwa, Shikamulonga, Mukobela I., Shama- 
kwebo, Shimaluwane, Mukobela II. 

Luhwe. — Mwanachiwala, Kalumba, Shepande (Shaloba I.), 
Munaluchena (Shaloba II.), Shaloba III., Shaloba IV. 

Ngaho. — Kachembele, Shimafumba I., Nchindo, Buche, 
Shimafumba II., Shimafumba III. 

Ichila. — Shambowe, Kanyindi, Shabulungu, Nakadiaba, 
Shivhwambwe, Shimakudika. 

Chisosoleke. — Kanza, Mulalu I., Kadimina, Mulalu II., 

North of the Kafue.—MdAnmhe (see Chap. XXII.) appears to 
have ruled over several localities, which after his death passed 
to different chiefs, e.g. : 

(i) Nyambo. — -Shimpande, Mwanamonga, Mauzwe, Mwana- 
nkumba, IMwezwa. 

(2) Chifwembe. — Kashize, Lombe, Mwembwa, Chilumbwa, 
Nakoma, Namabezhi. 


Mafwele. — Bizi, Shamumpo, Muluko, Shikamwe (two years), 
Mwino, Mponde I., Mivhuba (three years), Manzula, Mponde II. 

Kuntuba. — Kantambwe, Shichikoloma, Shitukumba, Na- 
mamba, Chomwa (people scattered). 

Mutenda. — Chongo, Munyama, Mwezhi, Mutinta, Shende, 
Chikwangula, Mulungushi. 



I. Physical Characteristics 

Amidst the very considerable variation in physique among 
these people two distinct types can be traced. One is tall, 
strongly and splendidly formed ; not inclined to corpulence, 
but tending rather to leanness ; with long legs, narrow hips, 
and broad, straight shoulders ; head finely shaped, well set 
on a longish neck, with clearly marked, but not obtrusive 
superciliary arches, nose long and rather arched, nostrils 
thin ; mouth sriiall, the lips not excessively everted, but 
tending to be thin like a European's ; hands and feet small, 
fingers tapering ; in general appearance handsome. The 
other type is very distinct, in many respects the very oppo- 
site to the former : short, with large, heavy body, tending 
to corpulence ; bull - necked ; the features coarse, forehead 
low ; nose squat, with broad depressed bridge and wide 
wings ; blubber-lipped, mouth large ; hands and feet gross. 
This type is as repulsive as the other is handsome. In- 
dividuals corresponding to these two types are found, and 
there are numerous gradations between the two. It cannot 
be said that one type is aristocratic and the other plebeian, 
for chiefs and slaves are found of both types. 

The colour of the skin varies considerably. That of 
the new-born baby is a dirty yellow ; in some, like that of a 
child of a very dark European woman ; as early as the second 
day one can notice it getting darker. Young people and 
adults vary from chocolate brown to almost black. The 
skin of the palms, soles, and armpits is always lighter than 




FT. I 

that of the rest of the body. We have repeatedly noticed 
that people lose much colour when sick. We have never 

Photo E. li: Si/tit.'i. 

The Inferior Ila Type. 

found any albinos among them, such as we have seen among 
the Basuto and other South African tribes. 

As for the eyes, the iris is dark brown or black, the 
pupil is black, and the sclerotic is yellowish and cloudy— 


very rarely is it white and clear as in Europeans ; it is 
probably pigmented as a protection from the glare of the 

Individuals are found with " strong " chins, but mostly 
they are " weak," rounded rather than square, and retreat- 
ing. There is no firm line of j aw. The forehead is prominent 
in those who wear the coiffure en cornet ; the weight draws 
the scalp back, so that the skin is tight over the frontal 
region. This gives them a certain open-eyed, staring 
appearance. The ear is ordinarily small and set far back. 
The hands and feet are often remarkably small ; we ourselves 
could rarely put on bracelets worn by chiefs and easily drawn 
off and on by them. We have seen many of the women 
with really handsome figures, beautifully moulded arms, 
and long tapering hands. 

The muscular development, both in men and women, 
is magnificent. Very seldom does one find fat, unwieldy 
persons. We have often found ourselves admiring their 
graceful carriage ; they walk as if the whole earth belonged 
to them. The women's habit of carrying heavy burdens 
on the head — we have seen them bearing without effort 
pots of water or bundles of wood which we could hardly 
lift from the ground — is largely accountable for this in their 
case. When a woman takes her child out of the skin on 
her back, where it has been bunched up for some time, she 
usually straightens out and slightly stretches its limbs, 
and this also has probably a benehcial effect upon their 
carriage and lissomeness. 

Ba-ila age quickly. This is especially true of the women. 
A young, plump woman, with rounded breasts, goes to be 
married, and a year or so later seems to be ten years older 
and is almost unrecognisable. After childbirth the breasts 
fall, and in still early life become unsightly, like long bags of 
leather. The slave women, unkempt, wrinkled, prematurely 
aged, clad only in bits of rough hide, are piteous creatures : 
some of them, to look at, might be a hundred years old, in 
reality they are probably not half that age. The boys 
develop amazingly after puberty, appearing to shoot up 
and burgeon out with a rush. It is not easy to tell the 
ages with any certainty ; only one thing is sure, they are 



PT. I 

younger than they look. The only means of ascertaining 
a person's age approximately is to relate his birth, or some 

Photo E. IV. Smith. 

A Young Mwila wearing the Impumbe. 

important event in his life, such as his initiation, to one of 
the few fixed dates mentioned in the previous chapter. We 
fixed our friend Mungalo's age at about seventy, because 


in 1854, when Sekeletu made his great raid, he had just 
grown his impumhe and was not yet married, i.e. he was 
fifteen or sixteen. The oldest man whose age we have 
ascertained in this rough manner was eighty-five, or there- 
abouts. The practice of naming children after some promi- 
nent visitor often helps to fix a date. Thus many children 
born about 1850 were named Mpepe after that Makololo 

The hair of new-born children is like tow, not curled 
as on adults, and the colour is distinctly lighter. It very 
soon changes, to become closely curled and jet-black. On 
many people the tufts grow very closely together, and 
when cut short the hair looks like astrakhan ; in others 
the tufts are spaced, but never to the extent found in the 

The Ba-ila proper, as a rule, wear no hair on their faces. 
One exception is during a period of mourning, when, from 
the time of the death till the madidila, the final funeral 
feast, perhaps a year later, the men neither shave nor wash, 
and the women neither wash nor cut their hair nor shave their 
head. Older men, who are said to be no longer shinkwcla 
— which means that they are past the age for attracting 
women — are more indifferent to their personal appearance, 
and allow the hair to grow ; such men usually have a beard, 
mostly only a straggling tuft on the chin. On the younger 
men the growth is not vigorous, and an occasional shave, 
say twice a month, is sufficient. The shaving is done with 
a razor {lumo), native-made ; no emollient is used but cold 
water. The operation is performed usually by a wife or 
friend ; not often, through lack of mirrors, by the man 
himself. The razor is passed right over the head, excepting 
only where the cone grows : this is called kusakula. Those 
who do not shave the whole head pass the razor around the 
margin of the hair on the scalp : this is kupamhula. Very 
occasionally one meets with a fairly full beard even 
among the Ba-ila ; if so, it is because the man is in a 
state of taboo. One man known to us had the reputation 
of being the strongest wrestler in the country : he boasted 
that nobody could possibly throw him ; he declined the 
challenge of one of us on the ground that it was not fitting 



PT 1 

that he should overthrow a white chief. This man's strength 
was the outcome, it is said, of powerful " medicine," which 

Photo E. Il\ Smith. 

An Old-Man-of-the-Woods from Mulendema's. 

would lose its power were he to shave ; shaving was there- 
fore taboo to him. Beards are more common among the 
Bambala and the Balumbu, but it is not often that one 

CH. Ill 



finds so much hair as on the old-man-of-the-woods we 
photographed at Mulendema's. 

Fhoto E. 11^. Si/nt/i. 

Chikatakala, "The Polar Bear," a Chief at Kasenga. 

The younger adults, male and female, periodically 
remove all hair [mazha) from the armpits^ and pubes by 
depilation {kudimensa) . Warm ashes are first rubbed on 
the part, and then the hairs are plucked out with the finger 



and thumb. Men and women may do this for themselves ; 
it is a wife's duty to do it for her husband. The other body- 
hair [mulalahungu) is not removed : it is taboo to do so. 
Very rarely does one find a young adult with much body- 
hair, but it increases with age, and some old men are very 
woolly. Old Chikatakala at Mala had so much white hair 
on him that we nicknamed him the Polar Bear. A hairy 
man is called a mutundu, a strong, hale person, the hair 
being regarded as a sign of robustness. All hair removed 
is carefully buried, as a rule, to avoid its getting into the 
hands of warlocks : this does not, as we shall see, forbid 
its use by the hairdresser. Partial baldness is common, 
but we have never seen a person entirely bald. 

The nails are never cut, but are allowed to grow till they 
break off. The possession of long nails has become a sign 
of wealth and position, for if a person has to work it inevitably 
happens that he breaks his nails ; when you see a man with 
nails nearly an inch long you may readily conclude that he 
does no manual work, that is to say, he is a chief. Another 
motive assigned for the custom is expressed thus, halazanda 
kuambanya mala (" they want to use their nails to argue 
with"). It is common among the women, and not unknown 
among the men, to scratch and pinch each other in course 
of a dispute. 

Contrary to the usual belief with regard to the teeth of 
savage people, we must confess disappointment with the 
teeth of the Ba-ila. This opinion is supported by the in- 
vestigations made by Dr. Hewetson among the Ba-ila and 
other natives who were labouring at the Wankie coal-mine 
in 1909-10.^ At that time the average death-rate amongst 
this class of micn on the mine was 42 per 1000, excluding 
accidents, one-eighth due to scurvy and more than one- 
half to pneumonia. His theory that both diseases are due 
to septic teeth has not been established, but he is right in 
saying that the natives suffer largely from gingivitis. This 
disease is due to a bacterial invasion of the alveolar tooth 
sockets and of the gums. The predisposing cause is that 

^ W. Morton Hewetson, M.B., etc., " The Causation and Prevention of 
Scurvy, with Special Reference to Pneumonia," Proceedings of the Rhodesia 
Scientific Association, vol. xi. part i., 191 1 (Bulawayo). 

CH. Ill 



the staple food being in the form of porridge, there is 
insufficient exercise for the teeth and gums ; this results in a 
soft condition of the gums, which become non-adherent to 

Photo E. !K Smith. 

A Dwarf, 

the teeth and non-resistant to micro-organisms. The soft 
food gets caught in the crevices and inequalities of the 
teeth and forms a suitable culture medium. As for the 
teeth, Dr. Hewetson says, " I have seen more sickening 
and repulsive sights in old men during the course of my 



FT. I 

examinations than ever I saw amongst the English working 
classes." This condition of things would seem to be closely 

Photo v.. ir. Smith. 

A Mixed Ila-Lura Type. 

related to the custom of knocking out the upper teeth. Of 
the cases of gingivitis on one date, 53 per cent lacked the 


six front upper teeth ; and others lacked a lesser number, or 
had the teeth filed ; not a single case at that time showed un- 
mutilated teeth. Amongst the Ba-ila and Batonga labourers, 
who all knock out the teeth, 13.3 per cent suffered from 
gingivitis ; among the rest only 5.40 per cent, and the con- 
dition was always worse and harder to cure among the former. 
He found it not only in the adults, but in young boys who had 
the teeth out. He points out, what we have often noticed, 
that the loss of the upper incisors can have an extraordinary 
effect on those remaining ; the lower incisors grow, often a 

From ProceedtHi^s R,S..-l. 

Cast of Lower Teeth of a Native. 

Showing compensatory curve of incisors, following avulsion in early life of 
upper incisors and canines. 

quarter of an inch above the crowns of the adjacent teeth, 
upsetting the line and causing want of apposition. 

The hair of a child is cut soon after birth, and is there- 
after allowed to grow until about the weaning time, when 
it is cut around the head, leaving a long tuft on the crown. 
This cutting is called kiitengula chisumpa, and the wearing 
of the tuft is kupunga chisumpa. These tufts [shisumpa) 
make the children look, as to their heads, like Japanese 
dolls. Both boys and girls have their hair dressed in this 

When the girl's hair has grown long enough, they do it 
up in the style called huyomho. Strands of the hair are 



PT. I 

twisted {kupesa) with powdered ash {inshizhi), then clay 
from a certain kind of ant-heap [kaumhuswa), or ochre 
{chishila) mixed with fat is rubbed into the locks. Mixed 
fat and ochre are used from time to time to anoint the hair. 
The girl's coiffure looks nasty to our eyes, but they find 
it pleasing. 

When the girl is in the seclusion of the initiation hut, 
her hair is done up in one of the styles named shimbulu- 

Photo Rev. J. Kersuvll. 

Bambala Girls. 
(To show hairdressing). 

mbumba and shimpuki. There is not much difference between 
them ; in each case the hair is done up in small knots or 
rolls with the aid of hutele, a paste made from ground-nuts. 
By the time this gets intolerably untidy she is ready to be 
shaved, a sign that she has reached adulthood. She may 
be already married when this is done. The Bambala do 
the girls' hair up in beads, as shown in the photograph. 

Boys also have their hair dressed in the buyombo style. 
Their hair is allowed to grow, and that on the crown is 
gathered into a cone, plastered with wax and clay. The 


hair around the base of the cone is shaved off. This cone 
is named impumhe, and it marks the boy's emergence 
from childhood. He is now a mukuhushi (" a young 
man"). The impumhe undergoes a further development 
into the isusu, the tall coiffure peculiar to the Ba-ila, whose 
construction must be described in detail. 

It is February ; the field-work is done for the present, 
and from now till harvest there is a slack period. This is 
the time when the young men flock to the hairdresser to 
have their impiimbe transformed into isusu. In every com- 
mune there is at least one professional hairdresser. We find 
him seated outside under the eaves of his hut. Several 
young men are here : some with their heads wrapped in 
cloths — these are the patients ; others have come to make 
arrangements for their turns. It is a lengthy process, and 
a painful ; when the isusu has been built up six inches or so 
the patient retires for a time to recover. Probably a month 
will elapse before one is complete. We find the hairdresser 
busy carrying different men through the various stages. 
He does not work for nothing : two hoes or their equiva- 
lent is the fee paid to him, and the patient has to 
supply the necessary twine and extra hair. Each man 
has with him a small bundle, on opening which you find 
a mass of hair collected or purchased by him. One 
tells you that he purchased with a spear some of the 
locks of an old man (they are flecked with grey) and his 

One man now takes his place on the ground beside the 
operator, and, removing his head-cloth, discovers a rough, 
tousy shock of hair — the impumhe decoiffe. The operator 
gathers this up in his hand, sorting out the hair beyond the 
circle of the crown, and ties it up loosely with twine, then 
with a spear cuts the superfluous hair close to the head. 
He now prepares to sew {kutunga). He has a bright needle, 
eight inches long, and a piece of twine made of mukusa (a 
species of Sanseviera), with which, after softening by drawing 
it backwards and forwards across one of the legs of his stool, 
he threads the needle. He inserts this into the hair, taking 
up half an inch, and ties the end of his twine tightly around 
it, then puts his needle, pointing backwards, an inch in front. 



PT. I 

and draws it up and forward. The stitch is the same as that 
used in smocking, and when the isusu is finished it presents 
the appearance of finely-wrought smock-work, the stitches 
showing no vestige of the white twine. He goes round 
twice. The needle does not penetrate through the mass of 
hair, but only through the outer layer, making a crust, as 
it were, enveloping the hair inside. Having by these two 
first rows prepared a firm foundation, he now pulls down 
the temporary twine-tied heap, and carefully spreads the 

P/io/o E. ir. Smith. 

Sewing the Isusu. 

hair all round. Some, as not required, he cuts off ; at the 
back, where there is an insufficiency, he adds a bit from the 
bundle lying beside him. Then he ties the mass up again 
tightly, smoothing it, poking it, punching it till he has 
got it symmetrical. He now resumes the sewing. He re- 
members that the isusu is not to grow out at right angles to 
the crown, but must rise above the head in a gentle curve, 
beginning with a bulge backwards and then curving forward. 
These next rows of stitching are important ; they must be 
tight and firm and well-shaped, otherwise the isusu will be 
lop-sided and wobbly. Working now from the back, as 

CH. Ill 



he makes the loop of the stitch he introduces into it a lock 
of hair from the heap beside him, draws the string tight 
across it, doubles it over, and smooths it down upon the 
hair above. He goes on adding in this way until near the 
front ; there he jumps over an inch and a half without 
stitching : he will fill up the space presently. While he con- 
tinues his work now, you see the patient wince as every stitch 

Photo E. ir. Smith. 

Sewing the Isusu. 

is pulled tight ; he is beginning to suffer. After four or 
five more rows, the operator attends to the space left in 
front ; pressing the whole mass forward, he makes his 
stitches, drawing the cord very tight : this gives it a firm, 
forward-tending hold. He goes on now round and round. 
When he has done about six inches up, the patient begins 
to say that he has had enough of it for to-day. " Chanka 
kuhia, chanka kupia " ("It begins to be bad, it begins to 
burn "), says he. The neat phrase tickles the fancy of the 



PT. I 

onlookers, and they repeat it approvingly, " Chanka kuhia, 
chanka kupia.' ' We are anxious to see the whole thing done 


as we wait, but that, we are told, is out of the question ; 
it would cause him such agony that the top of his head would 
come off. So, wrapping the cloth around the unfinished 

CH. Ill 



structure, he gives way to the next patient. You notice 
that the skin around the crown is drawn up and Hvid, and 




congratulate yourself that you are not a Mwila and a slave 
to barbarous fashion. 

Examine the hair lying by the side of the operator. It 



PT. 1 

is very fine and curly ; if you pull out a hair and stretch it 
to take out the curl, you find it measures eleven inches ; it 
curls up into less than half that length. 

The isusu from base to tip is about three feet ten inches 
high. About half-way up the operator introduces a strip 
of finely pared sable antelope horn, less than the calibre 
of a lead pencil at its lower end and tapering away to a 
very fine point. He continues his sewing around this until 
about nine inches from the top, when he simply winds hair 

P/ioio E. W. Smith. 

Repairing the Impumbe. 

around the stem and ties it. When this is complete, he 
lights a wisp of grass and burns off all the fluff remaining 
on the isusu, mercilessly, roughly, drawing the flame over 
the strained skin at the base. The patient writhes under 
this treatment, and groans, "Ndu lono lumamha " (" This is 
where the war comes in "). The operator simply laughs 
and goes on. 

These characteristic coiffures are not worn for any length 
of time, maybe only two or three months. They get too 
uncomfortable and have to be removed. The reason is 
found in the name given to them in derision by the Balu- 

CH. Ill 



mbu, who do not wear them : inganda sha njina, they call 
them (" lice houses "). The man goes back to the impumhe, 
and next season has another isusu made. 

Old men, as they become partially bald, lose the foundation 
upon which the impumhe is built, and it falls down behind in 
a ridiculous little bob, held on only by a few strands of hair. 

When men have worn the impumhe for some time, and 
because of mourning have not been able to attend to their 
toilet, it gets loose owing to the growing hair, and they visit 

fii.'lo I- . It'. Siiiiflt. 

After repairing the Impumbe : shaving the Head. 

the hairdresser to have it tightened. He puts in two or 
three rows of stitches around the base to make it firm, and 
then shaves the head. 

Outside the Bwila proper different styles of hairdressing 
prevail. One Bambala style is shown in the photograph 
of Kakua. This is called mampolombwe by the Ba-ila. 
The hair is allowed to grow long, falling almost to the 
shoulders, and is twisted into rolls. Others, as seen in the 
picture of Chibaluma, have their hair in a big mop, shaven 
in front to give the appearance of a lofty forehead ; the 
hair is often threaded with beads. A modification of 

Photo E. IV. Smith. 

The Chief Chibaluma. 
Mixed Ila and Luba Type. 

CH. Ill 



this is seen in the coiffure of Mulungushi, another Bambala 
chief, whose mop of hair, plastered with fat and ochre. 

Photo E. W. Sinilh. 

The Chief Chibaluma. 
Mixed Ila and Luba Type. 

is sohd in appearance and gives some resemblance to the 
statues of ancient Libyans found in Egypt. Other men 
have their hair cut short, and this is the usual practice 
around Nanzela. Where no impumbe is worn, young men 


often clip their hair into fantastic patterns, squares, triangles, 

Photo Rev. U'\ Chapman. 


To show one style of Banihala hairdressing. 


diamonds, etc., or train a long tuft over the forehead and 
shave the rest bare — any way, indeed, that takes their fancy. 

CH. Ill 



It is a matter of fashion ; one man sets a new style and the 
others soon follow. 

Photo E. IV. Smith. 

A Young Mvvila. 
(The same one as on p. 62. ) 

With regard to attitudes, a favourite way of sleeping is 
to lie full length on the stomach, with the head turned and 


resting on a bundle or a wooden pillow, or else flat on the 
ground. This is termed kuona buvhundeme ; to lie flat on 
the back is kusalama. Wooden pillows are used by those 
wearing the isusu, and the isusu is tied up with a string to 
the rafters, so that when the man turns his head he is not 
inconvenienced by it. Pillows are reckoned taboo to young 
unmarried men, but the rule is relaxed nowadays. It is 
the invariable custom for all to sleep stark naked. 

Ba-ila use stools (shuna) for sitting on, otherwise they 
sit on the ground or a log of wood. The stools are mostly 
low, from three to seven inches in height ; but some people 
now are the proud possessors of stools as high as ours. 
There are many characteristic attitudes in sitting, and 
some of them would be impossible to Europeans, save 
with great discomfort. Our illustrations will show many 
of these attitudes better than any verbal description can 
do ; among them we may note the following : (i) On the 
buttocks, upon the ground, knees wide apart, legs tucked 
one under the other. (2) On the buttocks, upon the 
ground, knees up, legs flexed, shins more or less vertical ; 
arms resting on the knees, or enclosing the legs with hands 
clasped below the knees ; or one hand supporting the chin, 
the other resting on the knees ; or arms folded -across the 
chest and resting on the knees, body drawn forward. (3) 
Buttocks just off the ground, the upper under surface of 
the thighs resting on the lower third of the leg above the 
ankles. (4) On a stool, knees up, arms crossed, one hand 
on the knee and the other on the opposite arm. (5) On the 
buttocks upon the ground, legs stretched out in front, or 
one leg flexed with knee up. (6) Upon the ground, weight 
of the body on one buttock, legs drawn in on opposite side. 
(7) On the buttocks, feet crossed, body leaning forward with 
forearms on the thighs and hands folded. (8) Legs flexed 
and drawn under, body resting on the heels. 

There is no sitting position reckoned taboo, but it would 
be blameworthy for a girl or woman to assume a position 
in company by which she might expose herself ; she would 
be called a namafunze ("worthless creature"). Women 
are always very particular when sitting down to wrap their 
skin-petticoats well around their legs. Such rules do not 


apply to men, who normally went naked, and who even now, 
when usually to some extent clothed, are quite careless as 
to exposing themselves. At Nanzela and among the Ba- 
mbala the men, who have always been used to dressing, 
exercise almost as much care as the women do. 

WTiile standing, men can hold themselves very erect if 
they wish, but at ease they assume very lackadaisical atti- 
tudes, lolling against something as if utterly weary. The feet 
are in most men turned slightly inwards, but there is not often 
seen a marked introversion of the big toes. Men standing 
talking to one have a curious habit of scratching their sides 
like a monkey. A very characteristic Ba-ila attitude is to 
stand on one leg, drawing the other up and resting the foot 
on the other thigh. The reason for this only became appar- 
ent to us one day when, after marching painfully for a long 
distance in deep water through a grassy swamp, we found 
ourselves adopting the same attitude unconsciously as the 
best, and indeed the only, way of resting. With the Ba-ila, 
accustomed to the swamps, it has become habitual. 

In micturition both sexes assume a crouching attitude, 
but men often stand, and women too, with legs apart. 
In defaecation they all crouch. 

We shall have occasion later to describe the gesticular 
language, but may insert here a few notes on the expression 
of the emotions. They are free in gesticulation and often 
express a sentence in a sweep of the hand. As pointing 
with the hand is considered rude in a village, they indicate 
direction by shooting out the lips, sometimes in a very 
amusing manner. To ejtpress surprise, hold the face with 
both hands, the fingers extended on the cheeks, with the 
thumbs under the angles of the jaw ; shake the head slowly 
from side to side and say, " Mawe! Mawe!" To express 
surprise, rebuke, or a half-amused shock to the feelings, 
loosely clench the left hand, hold the chin with the fore- 
finger over the miouth . and the thumb under the chin ; 
shake the head slowly from side to side. To express disgust, 
avert the face and hold the hands up, palms outwards, as 
if pushing a thing away, and say, " Pe ! Pe ! Pe ! " putting 
as miich horror as possible into those monosyllables. To 
express delight, boys jump round on one leg, wave the 



PT. 1 

other in the air, clap the hands and cry, " Ha! Ha ! " To 
express shyness, young girls especially cover the left cheek 

and eye with the left hand ; boys stand with eyes and head 
averted. When in pain one clasps the left hand over the 

CH. Ill 



right, and then the right over the left, and cries while 
wringing the hands in this way, "Ndafwa ! Nda/wa! " ("I 

Plwto E. U: Smith. 

Two Ba-ila Girls. 

am dying! I am dying!"). Another attitude in pain is 
to sit on the ground, with the head between the knees, 
and rock backwards and forwards. A woman crying for 


her child walks upright, arms hanging at her sides, hands 
clenched, and wails, " Mawe mwanangu! Mawe mwanangu ! " 
(" Alas, my child ! Alas, my child ! "). A slave does obeis- 
ance and shows gratitude by first clapping hands and then 
lying flat on the ground and rolling his head in the dust. 
To express innocence, one throws out both hands and arms 
repeatedly, as if repudiating a charge. A mother expresses 
love for her child often by pressing its head to her side. 
They do not kiss as we kiss, but a mother will run her lips 
over her child's face, which no doubt means the same. 
A man whose anger is aroused in discussion throws his 
elbows well back, clenches his fists, and stretches his neck 
as far as possible in the direction of his opponent, and while 
listening to him grunts " Eh!" ai every other word. An angry 
woman clutches, if possible, the hair of her opponent, and 
slaps and scratches in swift succession, her eyes blazing, and 
screeches in proper termagant style. To express " there is 
none " in answer to a question, a person raises the left hand, 
with the palm upwards, to the level of the breast and slowly 
waves it from side to side, or raises both hands, throwing 
them outwards to right and left. 

The nose is blown by closing one nostril with a finger 
and blowing down the other, then repeating the action for 
the other nostril. The mucus is ejected on the ground and 
is covered with sand by a movement of the foot. Then the 
nose is wiped with the hand and the hands rubbed together 
to cleanse them. Pocket-handkerchiefs, of course, are not 
used. The Balumbu have, as a substitute, a small spatula- 
shaped instrument hung round the neck on a chain and 
used to scrape out the nostrils. 

As for physical power, both men and women are strong. 
The women, accustomed from early youth to carrying heavy 
burdens and to manual labour, are powerful ; in a tug-of- 
war we have seen a team of eighteen women easily and 
repeatedly vanquish a picked team of twelve hefty young 
men. Neither party would consent thereafter to another 
match with the numbers equalised, the women content to 
rest on their laurels, and the men afraid for their amour- 
propre lest they should be beaten (as they might have been) ; 
as things were they could always say the odds against them 


had been too heavy. Where the men lack is not in muscular 
power so much as in spirit. Once they have made up their 
minds, they can display astonishing activity and endurance, 
but the spirit is weak. We have endeavoured to get them 
interested in athletic sports — at first with not much success, 
for competing in running and jumping was too much like 
hard work, but later with some display of sportsmanlike 
qualities. On these occasions they have competed for 
prizes, but we have never found that, as a result, they 
instituted competitions in their villages. The prize was the 
thing, not the having gained it. We have not, as we should, 
kept records of these competitions. In the last one we held, 
four young men out of twenty succeeded in jumping a 
height of four feet eight inches ; they could have jumped 
another four inches, but their hearts failed them when we 
raised the line. It must be noted that they were not trained 
for jumping. On the same day in the spear-throwing 
test three young men out of thirty threw spears sixty- 
three yards. The farthest we have seen a spear thrown is 
seventy-five yards. Young boys of fourteen throw up to 
fifty yards. 

We have known men travel on foot fifty and sixty miles 
in a day. The Ba-ila do not like carrying loads, but on many 
occasions we have gone on tour for three or four weeks, 
travelling from fifteen to twenty-five miles a day, accom- 
panied by carriers with loads weighing from forty to fifty 
pounds. The regulation load is fifty pounds ; we have 
known men, however, to carry seventy-five pounds nearly 
a hundred miles in five days. This carrying is very hard 
work ; it has been reckoned that it approximates nearly 
to that of a stevedore, which is perhaps the heaviest labour 
known. Loads are carried either on the head (when there 
is no impumhe or isusu) or on the shoulder ; either bare or 
bound in the fork of a branched pole ; preferably they 
divide the load and balance the two parts on either end of 
a straight stick [kukudika), or two men carry a double load 
on a pole, one in front, the other behind {kutemheka). When 
carrying a load on the shoulder they hke to have a stick 
over the other shoulder to support it {kudingatizha) . In 
addition to the regulation load, carriers always have things 



PT. I 

1 .K'lr 1-. W. Smith. 

Namushia, Son of Mungaila, Chief 
AT Kasenga. 

of their own, blankets, 
food, fish, tobacco, pots, 
perhaps another ten or 
fifteen pounds. They 
come in from a long march 
in good spirits, shouting 
and singing ; one or two 
will, if necessary, go back 
some distance to help a 
comrade in with his load, 
and after a meal they will 
perhaps spend two or three 
hours dancing. 

Great eaters as they 
are, they can endure 
hunger well ; they can go 
two days on the march 
without food, merely 
tightening their belts. 
This, however, is only 
when they can get water ; 
thirst exhausts them much 
more quickly than hunger. 

They stand heat well, 
and that without hats or 
other headgear. Still, if 
possible, they avoid exer- 
tion in the heat of the 
day ; during the hot 
season before the rains it 
is a common practice to 
rise at 2 or 3 a.m., when 
taking a journey, so as to 
go as far as possible in 
the cool of the morning. 
Cases of heat-stroke are 
met with, especially among 
the babies carried in the 
heat on their mothers' 
backs, with just their 

CH. Ill 



heads, or the tops of them, 
exposed above the carry- 

Cold shrivels them up ; 
they are the most miser- 
able of beings on a bleak 
winter's day. And yet 
we have often noticed 
this : on a bitterly cold 
night, with the thermo- 
meter at or near freezing- 
point, a man would strip 
off what scanty clothing 
he had on, roll it up as a 
pillow, cover himself with 
a thin cotton blanket, and 
go soundl}^ asleep, while 
we lay sleepless and 
shivering in a tent under 
two or three blankets. 
Again, you will see men 
emerge before sunrise 
from their warm huts and 
sit exposed in the chilly 
air around the ash- heap to 
have an early morning 
smoke. So that perhaps 
after all they do not feel 
the cold as much as 
Europeans do. 

Their eyesight is good, 
though not, in our opinion, 
superior to that of average 
white men. They are, of 
course, accustomed to the 
wide open plains and great 
distances, and the way in 
which they can detect an 
object a long way off 
seems very wonderful to a 

V N 


^^^^m^ ■ 









P/to/0 E. IV. Smith. 

Namushia, Son of Mungaila, Chief 




PT. 1 

new-comer. But after we had grown accustomed to the 
veld we often found that we could spot a buck as well as 
most, and better than many ; and to our joy a dispute 

Photo C. Kart'i 

Young Ba-ila fresh from the Hairdresser. 

as to whether a far -distant object were bush or buck 
has often been decided in our favour. Where we have 
had sometimes to acknowledge ourselves beaten is in 
the quick sight needed in tracing the faintly visible 
spoor of a wounded buck by means of a drop of blood here 

CH. Ill 



and a crushed leaf there ; at this some of the men, particu- 
larly Nanzela men, excel, though they are not the equals 
of the Bushmen. This applies only to more or less trained 


The Chief Shimunungu and two of his Men. 

men ; the majority, until practised, are no better than 
Europeans. Their sense of hearing is acute. Oneisarnazed 
sometimes to notice how readily they catch a message 
shouted from a distance. This also is probably a matter 
of use. The sense of smell is much less acute. Indeed we 


have wondered sometimes, when fighting our way through 
heterogeneous stenches, whether they had this sense at all. 
It is impossible to dogmatise on these points in the absence 
of precise psychometric data : we can only give our im- 
pressions. And with regard to the sense of touch, we should 
say that it is less developed than in refined Europeans, 
probably because the epidermis in a nude state is thicker. 
We have often been amazed by the way they handle live 
coals, picking them up with their fingers and putting 
them into their pipes with apparently no inconvenience 
to themselves. 

As is .natural, the Ba-ila of the plains are not good hill- 
climbers, for their feet soon give out on stony ground. The 
Bambala, with harder feet, are better in this respect, but, on 
the other hand, are soon overcome when they descend to 
the plains and sandhills. 

Ba-ila who live near the rivers make excellent swimmers. 
They are taught when young in the shallow pools that 
accumulate in the rainy season. The Batwa of the Kafue 
are so much at home in the water that they are almost 

The Ba-ila cannot be called a cleanly race, either in their 
persons or their homes. Men on the march lose no oppor- 
tunity of jumping into streams and pools, but at home, 
especially when living some distance from rivers, they rarely 
bathe. Any one, male or female, who washes once a month 
does well. A substitute for water is butter or castor oil 
(prepared from the seeds of the plant, which grows plentifully 
in some districts) rubbed into the skin for the double purpose 
of cleansing and softening it. We have known people 
excuse themselves for not washing on the ground that they 
had no butter, and the excuse is a valid one, because after 
washing the skin cracks on exposure to the sun unless an emol- 
lient is used. A good many of them employ fibrous sticks, 
of which there are three varieties in use, for brushing the 
teeth ; on experimenting with these we found them excellent 
for the purpose, the only drawback being the way the fibres 
stick in the mouth. From what we have already said about 
the teeth it may be readily concluded that this is not 
carried out as fully as is desirable ; nor is it a universal 


practice, most people being content with rinsing out the 

rhoto E. ir. Smith. 

A Baluba Type. 

mouth before eating. Their scanty clothing is never cleansed, 
save when they have to wade through water or are caught 


in the rain. The stench from a crowd of closely seated 
perspiring Ba-ila on a hot day is rather sickening to a 
European, but the body odour {bwema), as distinct from the 
effluvium from breath and unwashen clothing, is not pro- 
minent. They do not, they say, smell the bwema of each 
other, and smile at the idea of being able to distinguish 
friends in the dark by their odour alone. It is certainly 
more pleasant to sit in company with naked, or semi-naked 
Ba-ila than with clothed natives, but none of the Ba-ila has 
caused us such distress as certain South African natives, 
who leave behind a tainted atmosphere when they go from 
a room. 

Perfumes are not used by the Ba-ila, but at Nanzela a 
pleasantly scented powder, called lukumha, is made of mixed 
roots and leaves and used to make the body fragrant. 

Village conditions are very disgusting. Heaps of filth 
lie everywhere, and, with decaying meat and fish and cattle 
manure, make a visit to a village anything but a pleasure 
to one sense at least. There are no places set apart 
for the purposes of nature, except it be the shade of a 
particularly fine tree just outside the village. To commit 
a nuisance in the immediate vicinity of a house is forbidden, 
but done. To commit it within a hut, especially on a bed, 
is taboo ; we have known a claim to be made against a little 
boy who, taken ill in the night, had been unable to get 
farther than the hut door. Children are taught to go outside 
the stockade, but, like their elders, do not go far. 

These people leave their bodies very much as nature 
made them. They, unlike their neighbours the Mankoya, 
do not practise circumcision, but there is an analogous rite 
to be mentioned later. The girls also have private opera- 
tions, to be described in another chapter. 

The tribal marks of the Ba-ila are two : first, three slits 
(mapobe) cut on the temples ; and, second, the knocking out 
(kubanga) of the four upper incisor teeth, sometimes the 
two canines as well. The latter has no connection with the 
puberty rites ; it may be done before, while the boy or girl 
is only eight or ten years of age, or after, when they are 
sixteen. There is nobody especially set apart for the 
operation ; any person can do it, though, as a rule, a man 

CH. Ill 



will not do those closely related to him. When once a man 
in a village starts knocking out teeth he very soon has a 
number of youngsters awaiting their turn. No preparation 



To show teeth knocked out. 

is made. The boy sits down between the operator's knees, 
which grip his head like a vice. The man takes an inkansho, 
a short iron chisel used by the blacksmith, inserts its edge 
between two of the teeth, and hammers sideways, first on 
one side and then on the other side of the tooth, until it 


comes away, root and all ; once the first is out the others 
follow easily. For a youngster to clutch the hands of the 
operator is kuditaya, i.e. he renders himself liable to be 
enslaved ; for him to scream or show cowardice is to expose 
himself to the derision of the onlookers. Ba-ila are very 
sensible to ridicule, and, as a rule, no bodily compulsion is 
necessary to induce the youngsters to submit to the operation. 
A boy or girl with all the teeth in is the butt of the village ; 
" Beware zebra, he bites," they call after him, and sooner 
than face the scofhng the youngster submits. The people 
cannot explain the origin of the custom ; all we have heard 
is what Holub reported thirty years ago, that they take out 
their teeth so as not to resemble zebras but cattle. 

The three cicatrices on each temple are made as a dis- 
tinguishing mark. If a child is sick they may cut these 
incisions with a razor and put on the cupping horn, re- 
opening them on subsequent occasions till well-marked scars 
are left. If a young man has grown up without having 
them made he will have them done as inkwela {" decora- 
tions ") . The men also have some cuts on the forehead called 

The women practise cicatrisation more than the men. 
The misolo are a line of vertical scars on the loins beneath 
the skin petticoat. The incisions are first made while the 
girl is young, and repeatedly opened, and medicine rubbed 
in, until the scars become very large. They are hardly to 
be regarded as ornaments, seeing they are hidden ; their 
purpose is to act as a stimulus in the jeu de I' amour. Women 
have also other cuts inside the thighs. 

Large prominent keloids on the body, as seen in some 
of the Bambala, are regarded as ugly by the Ba-ila. 

The Balumbu, unlike the Ba-ila proper, perforate their 
ears and insert a ring [kaseka) made of wire, or a bit of 
grass [kasanga], or a stud made of two buttons {imbuta). 

2. Clothing and Decoration 

The Ba-ila, like the Fuegians, " are content to be naked, 
but anxious to be fine," or at least it is true of the men, 
who until quite recently wore no vestige of clothing. This 

CH. Ill 



custom was supported and encouraged by the women, who 
much preferred to have the men naked. Nowadays cotton 

Photo E. If'. Smith. 

A Nanzela Doctor. 


prints are worn around the waist ; many wear trade-shirts ; 
but the only European covering really popular is the blanket. 
The Bambala and Balumbu men, who never went naked, 
wear softly dressed pelts of small animals such as the tiger- 



PT. I 

cat, jackal, etc. The skins of the lubo, lion, and leopard 
may be worn only by chiefs. From the Barotsi has come 
the mubinda, a loincloth, tucked under the belt behind, and 
one end drawn between the legs and through the belt in 
front, so that the ends hang down over the knees, behind and 

The women, on the other hand, have always been 
scrupulous in covering the lower part of the body. It is a 

Pho/o G. H. Nicholls. 

On thk March. 

serious offence for a woman, either on purpose or by accident, 
to allow her skin petticoat to slip off. Their garment is a 
single one — the nicely dressed skin of the Lechwe doe, 
usually fastened around the waist, and sometimes under the 
armpits, by means of the miombo, the protruding leg-skins 
of the animal. The breasts are usually and without self- 
consciousness left bare. Outside the Bwila proper women 
wear calico around the waist, and a long stretch of brightly 
coloured print is tied on one shoulder and hangs gracefully 
around the figure, leaving the arms free. Where Barotsi 


influence has made itself felt, a woman may wear a pleated 
petticoat of stout print, sewn by her husband, and, beneath, 
a thick girdle of beads. 

Children run about naked ; the girls begin early to wear 
small skins or bits of cloth. 

Much more has to be said about the ornaments worn. 
A distinction is drawn by themselves between kusama, to 
clothe, and kusakila, to adorn oneself. Objects purely 

Swimming a River. 

ornamental are called inkwela. Besides these many things 
are worn, not for decoration, though they may be decorative, 
but as misamo ("medicines"). Others again are shabwami 
("regalia"), showing authority; others are shalumamha 
(" war -toggery ") ; and others have significance as the 
reward and sign of bravery. 

Let us see a woman dressed for some festive occasion. 
Her head is freshly shaven and anointed with butter. If it 
can be secured, she has a new skin petticoat. Around her 
waist she wears the mukaku. This is made by plaiting 




PT. I 

palm-leaf strips into a band, two and a half inches wide, and 
long enough to encircle the body. Along the two edges and 

Photo E. ;/•'. Smith 

A MwiLA Woman. 
Wearing the miikaku and carrying the ceremonial hoe. 

in the centre are three rows of large beads, the outside rows 
white, the middle row blue. DangUng down in front are 
strings terminating each in a small bell, made by doubling 


over a piece of thin iron, perforated with numerous small 
holes. These give a jangling sound as the woman moves. 
If iron bells are not to be had, small shells {hwididi) take 
their place. Among the Bambala this ceremonial belt 
takes another form and is called chiawala. Upon a cord 
around the waist are suspended numerous strings, each 
threaded with seven or eight inch-long sections of a thick 
reed-like grass ; these give a rusthng sound as the woman 
walks and dances. On her arms the woman wears bracelets. 
If she is the wife of a chief, she will have inkaya (" ivory 
bangles "), perhaps six on each arm ; otherwise a dozen or 
so brass- wire bangles {intasa). Above the elbows she has 
several other brass-wire armlets, or others made of copper- wire 
twisted closely around a basis of fine grass. On most of her 
fingers she wears rings [mambaminwe, inwenwe) of brass-wire 
beaten out thin. She wears also leglets of thin wire, two 
under each knee ; and anklets of thick brass- wire. Around 
her neck is an inkonde of two or three rows of beads fitting 
close ; or else (or as well) a necklace [inshamhwa madinga) 
hanging more loosely, with a tassel of beads suspended 
below. Over one shoulder and under the opposite arm is 
a strap of hide to which is attached a small horn containing 
" medicine " to scare away witches. Hanging in front, between 
her breasts, is the impande, the round base of a shell. She 
has around her head a mushini, i.e. a fillet of beads, or a 
strap of hide, or some other thing. Often the women 
ornament their heads with brightly coloured flowers. Lastly, 
in her hand she carries a light, beautifully made hoe, the 
mutaka, not for use, but for ornament. 

Two other girdles may be worn by women : the mwamho, 
a leather strap put on after childbirth to preserve the figure ; 
and a strap {mwangachamha) tied around the chest above 
the breasts. 

Children have bracelets prettily made of plaited grass 
[kangimgwa) . 

Many of the ornaments worn by men are the same as the 
women's. A chief may have seven or eight inkaya on each 
arm, of a heavier pattern than those worn by women. 
They weigh from 2^ to 3 ounces each. Their use is not now 
restricted to the chiefs, but all may wear them who can 



PT. I 

afford to purchase them. Enterprising traders have intro- 
duced a celluloid imitation which has sold in thousands. 
It is an interesting example of the hold of fashion upon the 
Ba-ila that the first trader who introduced these bangles 
had the whole stock left on his hands ; they were rejected 
by the people because of some minute variations in colour 
and shape from the accepted pattern ; while another trader, 
whose manufacturer was careful to imitate with scrupulous 

































^■i^^^^B^^B^ IM 4 "~^ '^K 








Photo M. A. Daffarn. 

In Festive Attire. 

fidelity the ivory bangle sent to him as a pattern, realised 
a small fortune from the sale. 

The men wear rings, leglets, and armlets, as do the women, 
but not anklets. They also wear the impande, on the arm, 
around the head, or suspended around the neck ; a chief 
may be seen wearing seven or eight of them. These also 
have been imitated in celluloid and porcelain by European 
manufacturers. We remember the disgust of one of the 
early purchasers when his imitation impande, for which he 
had paid a high price, happened to fall into the fire and 
disappeared in a gust of flame. 

Cil. Ill 



The coiffure has much attention given to it by the young 
bloods. The impitmhe has in recent 3'ears been ornamented 

r/io/o M. .-/. Daffarn. 

P..\-iLA Warriors. 

with brass chair-nails purchased from the traders. Time 
was when one or two nails sufficed them, but now the fashion 
is to crowd on as many as possible. In front of the impumhe 
and isusu is fixed a small ball, made of feathers {shilongo) 



PT. I 

with a spike. Feathers are also worn ; the long black 
cock's feather {munimha) and the crest of the crane [kala 

j:'i.'!o M. A. l\iJJ\irn. 

A War Dance. 

ha busanga) are merely decorations ; but the feather of 
the Plantain - eater {Induba) is a sign that the happ3^ 
wearer has been successful in killing a man, a lion, a 
leopard, or an eland. These feathers used to be awarded 

CH. Ill 



b}^ the chiefs, and their possession was accounted great 
glory. In a revolting murder of a foreign native that 

phoic I., ir. SiiiiUt. 

Bambwela Type. 

occurred some time ago, the offender alleged his motive 
to be that he wanted to be entitled to wear the induha 


feather. Blue-jay feathers {Chikamhwe) are also a sign 
of valour. 

One instrument carried always in the impumhe and isusu 
is the insonde, a long needle which has many and varied 
uses, chief among which the scoffer would say is to tickle 
up the denizens of the coiffure. 

When arrayed in their war-toggery the men present a 
very fine wild appearance. The chiefs put on their leopard 
and lion skins, tied around the loins with most of the skin 
hanging behind, or wrapped around their shoulders. 
Warriors, as if disdaining soft raiment, wear around their 
loins a piece of hard dry hide, and also belts called mabamba, 
similar to the women's mukaku. Encircling the arms they 
have indioka, i.e. zebra or wildebeest manes, and around the 
neck a ruff of the mane of a lion or old baboon. In his hand 
the warrior carries a bunch of spears, also a long stick sur- 
mounted by a tuft of long feathers like a mop, called ingala 
sha mabungabunga ; or a mwiko, made of an elephant's 
tail, or, if the real article be not procurable, an imitation 
made of palm-leaf. These were waved to disconcert the aim 
of an opponent, and the man who after each spear was 
avoided coolly swept the ground with the mwiko was much 
admired. Each man probably has an axe as well, a kembe 
or chibanga, or a proper battle-axe called bukana. When 
arraying themselves as for war, the Ba-ila paint themselves 
with a white substance and throw over themselves ash 
from the big heaps in the cattle kraal. 

Another ornamentation, also useful in making a noise, 
worn by men who dance the machacha dance, is a number 
of dry globular seed-pods {masangusangu) tied around the 
legs above the ankles. 

Among the rare and treasured possessions of some of the 
chiefs are large white beads of glass, called mai (" eggs "). 
They are said to have been introduced a great many years 
ago by the Mambari, and were the first European articles seen 
by the Ba-ila. They were traded for ivory. We are told that 
in ancient days the Ba-ila had no cattle, and they first bought 
them with these beads from the people of Chimbulamukoa 
and Mongwe, on the upper reaches of the Kafue, where 
to-day no cattle are found because of the tsetse fly. 







I. Description of a Village 

While Ba-ila villages may vary considerably in size— some 
containing three or four huts and half a score inhabitants, 
and others upwards of two hundred huts and a thousand 
people — in plan and methods of construction they are 
generally uniform. In form they are circular or somewhat 
horseshoe-shaped, the huts being built round the circum- 
ference, while the space in the centre is used as a cattle-pen. 
Another uniform feature is that the house of the chief or 
headman is built on the east side of the village, his door 
facing the setting sun and immediately opposite the main 
entrance. From this circumstance, and not by its size, it is 
always easy to recognise the chief's dwelling ; one can also 
fairly gather, from the relation of the position of the main 
entrance to that of the setting sun, an idea of the time of 
the year when the village was planned. There is no esoteric 
reason for placing the chief's hut (by which we mean the 
hut of his principal wife) immediately facing west ; it is 
simply a matter of the head of the village having the most 
convenient site. As the prevailing winds come from the 
east he is sure of shelter as he sits by his door, equally from 
the bitter blasts of winter and the scorching sirocco of the 
period just preceding the rains. 

For description here we may select as fairly typical the 
village of the chief Shaloba at Lubwe. 

It stands at the summit of a gentle slope overlooking the 
great Kafue plain. On three sides there is no outlook, as 



the forest hems it in closely, but on the north-west there is 
a view not often surpassed in the country. Through a break 

Photo E. VV. Smith. 

The Chief Shaloba. 

in the bush you look out over the plain to the line of blue 
hills on the horizon beyond the river ; and your gaze wanders 



PT. n 

over the vast expanse and is arrested only by the Hne of trees 
skirting the river bank. In the early morning the horizon 
is lost in a dense white mist rising from the stream and 
swamps ; presently as the sun gains in power the mist 
begins to vanish and the tree-tops appear, phantom-like, 
hanging in the air. Soon it is all dispersed, and at midday 
you see the great plain palpitating in the heat. It is in the 





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Plan of Lubwe Village. 

A = Central space. 
B = Main entrance. 
C, C = Entrance to cattle-pens. 
D = The mizhimo huts. 

K =The chiefs enclosure. 

F = The chief's principal wife's hut. 

G = The chiefs private hut. 

H = Trees. 

late afternoon that the charm of the scene is greatest and 
the tints on plain and hills are most enchanting. The 
beauties of the landscape are lost upon the Ba-ila, who when 
they pronounce this inshi imbotu (" a fine country"), are 
thinking most of all of the magnificent pasturage for the 
cattle, of which the people of Lubwe have one of the finest 
herds in the land. 


In this village there are about 250 huts, built mostly on \ 
the edge of a circle four hundred yards in diameter. Inside 
this circle there is a subsidiary one occupied by the chief, 
his family, and cattle. It is a village in itself, and the form 
of it in the plan is the form of the greater number of Ba-ila 
villages which do not attain to the dimensions of Shaloba's 
capital. The open space in the centre of the village is also 
broken by a second subsidiary village, in which reside 
important members of the chief's family, and also by three 
or four miniature huts surrounded by a fence : these are 
the manda a jnizJmno {" the manes' huts "), where offerings 
are made to the ancestral spirits. Thus early do we see 
traces of the all-pervading religious consciousness of the 
Ba-ila. Again, as we pass through the main entrance, we 
observe two small enclosures, one on each side of the gateway, 
where an offering is made to the spirits and a prayer offered 
for the protection of the cattle as they wander grazing. 
And before the first stick of the village was planted, or ever 
a hut marked out, a solemn offering of a beast was made 
to these same spirits, the guardians of the village. 

Around the circle the huts are placed close together, 
the spaces between them being filled with poles. At intervals 
there is placed a forked stick which provides a strait and 
subsidiary means of ingress and egress, called kasena, " little 
space." The space between the forks being only a foot 
wide, these entrances are evidently not intended for stout 
people ; but being not easily distinguished they were very 
useful in the days of sudden and nocturnal attacks on the 
village. The great entrance is four or six yards wide, and 
ordinarily is not closed. The entrances to smaller villages, 
and to the subsidiary units of larger villages, are closed by 
means of long poles placed vertically, resting upon and 
locked by others placed horizontally. 

A large village such as this is composed of a number of 
smaller units, each built on the same plan as the chief's 
enclosure, their size depending upon the number of the 
owner's family and adherents and cattle ; if the last are 
absent there is no cattle kraal. These separate enclosures 
are named mikoho. Within them, as within the chief's 
enclave, the huts do not open into the cattle-pen, but there 





is a low fence separating them. People may sit in the cattle- 
pen, the chief may have his breakfast there, and with his 
councillors decide the village disputes, but it is within this 
fence in front of the huts that the village life flows. Narrow 
openings allow of direct communication between the mikobo. 
The huts vary in size and character as do the villages, 
there being a world of difference between the small hovel 
of a careless nobody and the spacious dwelling of a chief. 
The principal hut here, that belonging to Shaloba's great 
wife, is forty feet in diameter ; others measure twenty, 
fifteen, twelve feet, some less. They vary somewhat in 
material ; the villages in the midst of the plain, e.g. at 
Nyambo, are built almost entirely of reeds and grass, 
because wood is so very scarce ; in or near the forest poles 
are used, and, of course, the huts are so much the more 
substantial. The principle of construction is the same in 
all cases. Here we see, as elsewhere, the strict division of 
labour between men and women, each sex taking its cus- 
tomary share in the building operations. The men cut the 
poles and reeds, the women cut the grass and dig out clay 
for plastering. The first process is to mark out the hut 
{jkufundulula) ; this is done by the men. Tying one end of 
a string, the length of the radius of the hut, to a stick planted 
at the centre, the man fastens the other end to another 
stick, and with it describes a circle. Then with a hoe a 
narrow trench [mwimhi) is dug along this line. The upright 
poles [mazhilo) are then planted in this trench. They vary 
in length according to the energy and position of the builder : 
in some cases they measure six feet, in others ten or twelve. 
If poles are plentiful they are set close together, forming 
when bound and plastered a very solid wall ; but generally 
the man is content to place a pole every foot or so, and to 
fill up the spaces with reeds or grain-stalks. An opening 
is left for the doorway ; there is no window. The uprights 
are now bound together with withes [imhalo) tied at intervals 
of a foot or two with §tring made of bark {lozhi) . Along the 
top of the wall a layer of several withes is strongly tied to 
act as a wallplate [luhalo Iwa chilongolongo) . Over the door, 
at a height of about four feet, is bound a transom {chikota- 
mino), and the space between it and the wallplate is filled 


in with sticks {bulebo) . A stout log is placed as a threshold 
{chikunguzho) . That completes the framework. The struc- 
ture so far completed, called Iwampa, is often left for months, 
with a temporary covering of grass if it is inhabited, until 
the near approach of the wet season stirs them to putting 
on the roof. 

In the construction of the roof there is a difference in 
method between the true Ba-ila and the Balumbu. The 
former plant a long straight pole {musemu) in the centre 
of the hut to support the roof. The upper end of this is 
cut into a long tenon which pierces a disc of wood, eighteen 
inches or two feet in diameter, through the centre. The 
principal rafters [matungisho) are now prepared by being 
adzed at the thick end and a hole being drilled there ; they 
are then placed in position, with the thick end resting on 
the disc and the other on the wallplate. The two ends are 
now bound to the disc and wallplate respectively, in the 
former case the string passing through the hole already 
made. When these are all in position they are bound 
together with withes and bark-string, and other poles are 
pushed in to fill up the spaces round the circle. The over- 
hanging ends of the rafters are then cut even {kukonkolola) . 
The distance which these are allowed to overhang varies 
considerably. The eaves are often short ; generally they 
are some two feet in length, and forked poles are planted 
beneath them for support, thus forming a narrow verandah. 
In a hut de luxe a secondary set of rafters is built in, one end 
resting on the waUplate and the other on a verandah plate 
supported on forked sticks, thus forming a roomy portico 
about nine feet wide surrounding the hut. 

At Nanzela the musemu and its disc are not used except 
when imitating the Ba-ila in building large huts. Three or 
four principals [matungisho) are tied together on the ground 
at the thick pointed ends, and then hoisted on to the wall- 
plate. After being stretched apart and bound to the wall, 
a basket-work of withes is woven around the poles at the 
apex, and into the interstices are pushed masondo, secondary 
rafters, the weaving being continued until the poles are 
firmly bound together at the summit. Withes are then 
tied on at intervals along the rafters, and smaller subsidiary 


poles (mapomo) are pushed in until the spaces are filled 
up. This forms a very neat, and, if the poles be strong 
and well fitted, a firm roof which may last ten years or 
more. In building a small house, and the grain bins, the 
roof is made complete on the ground and then hoisted into 

The wall and roof being finished, the men may rest until 
the women have accumulated a pile of clay in the interior 
of the hut. This is often a laborious business, for it may 

•-— t-v .--^^ 

Plwto E. IK Smith. 

Principal Hut of the Chief Sezongo at Nanzela. 

mean carrying the clay in baskets from an ant-heap a mile 
or more from the village. Often a suitable termite hillock 
is found close outside the village, and in course of time a 
great pit is excavated there by successive diggings. The 
clay is mixed with chopped grass and water, and then the 
men give the first coat of plaster to the wall. This operation 
is named kumata, and involves filling up the interstices 
with sticks, so that the clay may adhere and completely 
cover the interior. Previous to completing this, palm fronds 
are taken and cut short, leaving split sections which when 




inserted at intervals between the poles provide receptacles 
for holding pots and other things. 

The plastering finished, the men may rest again while 
the women put on the second and finishing coat — this is 
named kushingulula — and, according to their skill, form the 
mouldings which are such a feature of nicely built Ba-ila 
huts. The men can then complete the exterior by thatching. 
This is done in an unskilful manner, the grass being simply 
thrown on and tied, with the root-ends upwards ; they 

Photo Rev. jr. Chapman. 

In a Basodi Village. 
To show style of houses. 

begin at the apex and work downwards ; the layers of grass 
overlap, but there is no attempt at brushing. 

The extremity of the niusemu projects above the apex, 
and sometimes is crowned with an earthen pot. One pot 
indicates that the owner of the hut has killed a man, a lion, 
or a leopard, two pots that he has killed two, and so on. 
In some villages you may see as many as fifteen pots crowning 
the huts of a man and his wives. Other men who cannot 
aspire to the dignity of pots put in their place the heads of 
game they have killed. This custom does not prevail at 


Nanzela (save occasionally in imitation of the Ba-ila), where 
a neat pinnacle of grass {sonkoto) crowns the apex. On 
some Ba-ila huts one sees a number of sticks projecting from 
the thatch at different angles. These are a memorial of the 
spears which the owner fended off in battle, and one can 
tell approximately from the angle which part of the body 
escaped impalement. Here is a man at Mala with no less 
than eleven such sticks ; he says that he fended off that 
number of spears in the fight between Mungalo and Mungaila. 


A, A = Chihetigelelc. 
B = Screen. 

Plan of a House. 

C = Seat. 

D = Fireplace. 

E = The ipiipi. 

F = Grain receptacles. 

The ej^terior of the hut is left unplastered, except around 
the doorway, and there the plaster forms the base for 
various ornamental mouldings. 

Just within the doorway a framework of wood is built 
up around the opening and plastered over, so that the wall 
appears to be a foot or more thick. This canopy around 
the doorway is named chihengelele, and upon it the women 
have scope for their ingenuity and artistic skill. One of 
the commonest decorations is three lumps of clay repre- 
senting the two mammae with an impande shell between. 
On some huts outside is a representation of a rayed sun. 




Others have representations of the Itoshi monster, with its 
flat head and the fins with which it grasps its victims. The 
knots upon it are tupande tupande, small 
impande shells, a purely conventional decora- 
tion of the beast. 

Entering a finished hut, you find yourself 
in dense darkness, for no light can enter 
except through the narrow doorway. When 
your eyes become accustomed to the gloom 


Plan of Fireplace. The Fireback. 


you may see on the left a screen, made like everything 

else of poles plastered over with clay, and immediately 

behind is a small platform used as a seat by day and bed 

by night. Around the face of it is a snake and impande 

moulding. Next to this is the fireplace, moulded of 

clay in the shape shown 

in the sketch plan, and 

standing about a foot from 

the ground ; the spaces 

(A, A) are for the fire, and 

the pots stand upon the 

edges. Behind the fireplace 

is a semicircular fireback of 

clay, upon which once again the ubiquitous snake appears. 

Over the fireplace is erected a platform called lupango, on 

which firewood is stored. 

Continuing our progress around the hut, we come next to 
another ipupi ("low platform"), upon which stand the large 
beer pots. Each of these has its stand, moulded so that 
the bottom of the round pot can rest in it. Around the wall 
are various contrivances for hanging up the owner's posses- 
sions. From the roof is suspended the inkata, a basket- 
work container in which is put the churn calabash {insua), 
or a pot of milk ; immediately above it, and on the string 
by which it is suspended, is slung a half-section of a calabash, 
a clever device to keep the rats from the milk. From the 
roof are suspended many other things, among which are 


bundles of " medicines." Against the wall stands a rack 
for the spears, with a narrow trough of wood at the foot to 
receive the points of the blades. Dividing the hut in two 
is a wall about six feet high, consisting of a number of long 
clay grain receptacles, named shtimbwa, standing upon a 
platform, and with the interstices between them plastered 
up. These are filled and sealed, and when required the 
grain is taken out of a small hole punctured near the foot. 
Over the head of the shumbwa a narrow flat cornice is 
plastered, and this is decorated. The snake pattern pre- 
dominates, and often one finds rude paintings of animals — 
cattle, eland, lions, leopards, etc. — reminding one in their 
outlines of Bushman paintings. In some cases there are 
also attempts at representing in colours the patterns of 
European fabrics. The colours used are ash, charcoal, and 
differently tinted clays. The cornice is surmounted by a 
serrated moulding. At the farther end of the partition 
there is a doorway leading into the inner chamber, called 
chimpetu, the furniture of which is simply a bed, consisting 
of a platform of sticks covered with skins. The floor of 
the hut is slightly below ground level, and is made of ant- 
heap clay beaten down hard. 

A well-constructed, nicely decorated hut looks very well 
when new, but the walls and roof inside soon become covered 
with a thick deposit of soot, as there is no outlet for the 
smoke of the fire other than the door ; the frail mouldings 
chip off, the colours of the paintings fade, and before long 
the hut presents a dilapidated appearance. The practice 
of keeping the young calves in the hut does not improve it. 
The termite plays havoc with all buildings constructed of 
timber. The houses become infested with vermin. Every 
village swarms with enormous rats, which are so voracious 
that they nibble at the sleeping children's fingers and toes 
and eat pieces out of the adults' coiffures and the horny soles 
of their feet. Old houses also get infested with the inkofu 
("tick"), a very unpleasant insect. Of recent years the 
chigoe (the so-called " jigger ") has reached the Bwila. And 
all things considered, it is no wonder that after a few years' 
residence in one spot the people are glad to build a new 
village on another site. 




A polygamist erects a hut for each of his wives, he being too 
wise to risk having two women unaer one roof. The central 
hut belongs to the nahukando ("chief wife"), and the others 
are ranged on either side. Near the central hut the chief has 
his own private hut where he sleeps. To this he invites his 
wives for three or four nights according to his fancy, taking 
care, however, not unduly to favour one at the expense of 
the others, or there will be disturbances in his household. 
The children sleep in the various huts on the bed or on the 

P>toto E. IV. Smith. 


To show Baluba style of house. 

floor, the boys in the outer and the girls in the inner chamber. 
The young unmarried men have their hut, and the young 
women theirs. 

The huts we have described are general among all these 
peoples, but the enclosed village being mainly for the purpose 
of harbouring cattle, in the tsetse-fly areas the villages are 
not so uniform. A more primitive form of hut is seen on 
the outskirts of the district, and sometimes as a temporary 
dwelling in the Bwila itself. These makanka, as the Ba-ila 
call them, consist simply of a number of poles stacked into 


a conical form, tied at the apex, and covered over with 
grass, roof and walls being in one. Among the Bambala 
who have come into contact with the Baluba, another form 
is found, a cross between the makanka and the Ba-ila hut. 
The back part is built like the former, but in front a wall is 
erected of poles and clay, and the roof poles are sloped from 
those behind on to the top of this wall. 

2. Life in a Native Village 

To gain an insight into native life one needs to spend 
some time in a village. If you pitch your tent within the 
enclosure of a friendly chief, you may use your eyes and ears 
to great advantage and without hindrance. Ba-ila are 
mostly very hospitable, and we have often been thus enter- 
tained. Shaloba, the chief of the village we have described, 
was frequently our host. He was a sHghtly built old man, 
with thin aristocratic face and a fine dignified manner. 
His chief wife, Ntambo, was a tall handsome woman, 
arrayed during our visits in a splendid leopard skin, and 
she always exerted herself to make us and our followers 
at home. There was never any question in our mind as to 
the mutual affection between these two ; they were evidently 
fond of each other. If a particularly witty remark were 
made, he would call her and repeat it for her benefit. If 
anything were given him he would summon her to admire 
it, and if a present were made to her he would show almost 
childish delight in the compliment to her. When other men 
were present it was against etiquette for her to eat with him, 
but in the evening, after all visitors had gone, she would 
produce some tasty dish, and they would sit and eat it 
together in Darby and Joan style. 

What you will see in a village depends largely upon the 
season of the year. In the times of field-work very few 
people are in the village, for they are busy in the lands some 
distance away. In winter you will not expect to be called 
early, though Dr. Holub's remark that these people do not 
rise till ten o'clock is not correct. In the hunting season 
you may be awakened long before it is light by the drums 
calling up the hunters. Ordinarily, about 7 a.m. you are 


aroused by the voice of an elder calling the boys to let out 
the calves to the cows, and soon afterwards you will find 
the boys and girls sitting with the men around the fires of 
cattle dung in the kraal. Here is the chief getting his 
breakfast. A woman brings him a dish of thick porridge 
[inshima), together with a reUsh in the shape of some meat 
and gravy. This is placed between his feet as he sits, and 
calHng the boys and men to share his repast, he and they 
break off pieces of the porridge and eat, after dipping them 
in the gravy. The cattle go out about nine, each herd 
accompanied by the herdsmen. The people now disperse 
for the work of the day. At this cold season of the year 
there is not much to be done, but the women have to trudge 
off several miles to the fields to bring in some of the grain 
stored there. Those at home are busy preparing the food 
for the day. The men go out to cut poles ; they go off 
with their dogs hunting, or they simply wander about the 
village or loll under the verandahs smoking and chatting 
with their friends. For the boys and girls life is not hard. 
There are many errands to run, water and firewood to be 
fetched, and they have to take turns in herding the calves 
and goats. But there is plenty of time for games. The 
babies, like little black^naked balls, roll about with the 
puppies in the dust, or their sisters carry them about. 

Take a walk around the village and see what is going 
on. Here is a woman busy cupping a friend who is suffering 
with headache. Here is the blacksmith shaping an axe- 
head amid a crowd of onlookers. Here is the ivory-turner 
busy with his lathe. This man is occupied in carving a 
spear-shaft, and this in repairing a drum-head. Here are 
women making pots and weaving baskets. There is always 
something of interest to see in a village. 

You will find the chief sitting near the door of his hut 
surrounded by men. For him at least the day is a busy 
one. Newcomers are continually arriving. Each one takes 
his place and waits for a lull in the conversation, when the 
chief greets him and asks his news. K he has any business 
he tells it, and it is fully and exhaustively discussed by all. 
One man has bought a cow, and its qualities and price and 
the details of the bargaining serve to while away an hour. 


Another reports the loss of some cattle, and after all the 
possibilities of their whereabouts have been argued the 
chief sends men out to seek for them. Into the midst of 
the assembly there comes a man who is greeted with roars 
of laughter ; he has just come from the hairdresser, but his 
coiffure, instead of standing erect, is lying over to one side. 
As he takes his seat a friend begins to straighten it for him, 
shoving it this way and that, while all business is stopped 
and the court laughs at his grimaces and shouts encouraging 

P/tnfo E. ir. Smith. 

The Chief Shaloba and his Band. 

remarks to the manipulator. More serious matters engage 
their attention. There has been a fight between two men 
about a woman ; they are both present, and shout out their 
accusations and defence, while the chief calmly listens, and 
at the end invites opinions from the elders and gives his 
judgement. Another man brings a claim for adultery ; 
another for some land. So it goes on. At intervals one of 
the chief's wives brings some refreshment, each of them 
seeming to vie with the others to produce the tastiest possible 
dishes. All are invited to share in these. Then other cases 
come. Some young men are just home from the mines and 


bring a quarrel they had while working in the pit, and an 
elder charges one of them with swearing at his wife. The 
young men get excited and talk one against the other, 
until the chief sends them off, telling them to be good boys 
and not bother him with such trivial things. So on and 
on, while the sun declines in the west and the visitors 
gradually disperse. The chief wins our admiration, for 
though manifestly tired, he shows no sign of impatience, 
but listens to all. We sympathised with Shaloba one day 
when, after listening to cases from early morning, a man 
came up with a long story just as he was about to have 
his evening meal. He turned to us and said: " Bwami 
mhuzhike " (" Chief dom is serfdom, to be a chief is to be 
a slave"). 

Before this the cattle are home and the boys have 
brought in the calves. The young calves are hoisted out of 
the huts and taken to their mothers. When the milking 
is done, it is time for the evening meal. The fires blaze up, 
and the men gather here and the women there. After 
supper the chief takes his diversion in a way that will 
very likely send you to bed with a severe headache. The 
drummers come up, three or four of them, and the player of 
the hudimha, and as they strike up the wives come to the 
front of the hut to dance. They keep this up to a late hour, 
dancing and singing with keen enjoyment. Outside in the 
square the boys have kindled a fire of grass and impressed 
a drummer to play for them. They shout, they skip about 
and frolic as only boys can, jumping through and over the 
fire, and beating up clouds of dust. Presently young men 
and women join them, and, standing on opposite sides of 
the fire, begin dancing in a way that reminds us of some of 
the country dances seen at home. Then comes silence. 
The village is asleep. 



Above all their possessions, above kith and kin, wife or 
child, the Ba-ila, with few and occasional exceptions, love 
and value their cattle. An old and tried hunter of the 
authors', named Kambango, often relates the following story. 
When he was a small boy the Barotsi invaded the country. 
As their approach drew nearer and nearer the neighbours 
began to flee, either driving their cattle into the fatal fly 
district or abandoning them. His old father, urged to 
follow their example, stoutly refused, saying that he could 
not desert his cattle. Finally, the Barotsi arrived at the 
village, a last appeal proved fruitless, a gallant but hopeless 
resistance was made, and after killing two of his assailants 
the old man lost his cattle and his life. 

While of course it is manifest that the utility of the 
cattle is the mainspring of their affection for them, it is not 
to be disputed that they inspire them with some idea of 
beauty ; indeed it might be said that the first gleams of 
appreciation of beauty that penetrate their natures are 
gained from their cattle. For a long time our efforts to 
induce the old men to utilise their numerous oxen as beasts 
of burden, to draw waggons or ploughs, excited genuine 
indignation. They neither ride them nor work them, 
" How could I be so cruel as to make them work ? " said 
old Shaloba to us. The suggestion that some overburdened 
old slave woman might gain relief was received as beside 
the point altogether. 

Their ideas of beauty often appear strange enough to 
a European. It is stated that the origin of the practice of 





knocking out their front teeth was in order to resemble 
their cattle. Horns that hang down and swing, or that are 
otherwise distorted, excite high admiration, and an ox or 
cow is bought for its beautiful voice. Nor is their admiration 
merely verbal. The writers have often known a large but 
ugly ox exchanged for one shapelier, though smaller. To 
render an admired beast still handsomer, it is decked with 
ruffs, necklaces, or bells. A high compliment to a friend 
or wife or lover is to name an animal after them, and it is 

Photo E. IV. Smith. 

Cattle drinking in the Kakue River. 

considered an act of discourtesy to part with this particular 
beast, which it is customary to ornament in the manner 

All cattle are named, and their peculiarities and points 
form the subject of endless discussion. In addition to being 
named, each animal bears the special brand {chando) of the 
owner, in the shape of ear-marks. Sometimes these ear- 
markings are of the crudest, a half or quarter ear simply 
being cut off ; with others much care is taken, and tiny slits 
are made to form combinations or patterns. The marking 
of the beast of another, or the adoption of another's mark, 
is, of course, a heinous offence. 


The cattle sleep in the big pens described in the previous 
chapter, though at the smaller villages the pen is often 
represented by reeds and poles with gaps between them. 
Outside may often be seen the pole with a small horn on top 
containing huvhumo, " medicine " to protect the cattle from 
lions. Inside the kraal one's attention is arrested by the 
large grey mounds of ash, the mikwashi. Constantly re- 
plenished with dry ordure, the fires seldom go out. Here 
in the pungent smoke the cattle crowd to shelter themselves 
from the bites of the mosquitoes ; and here around the warm 
heaps the morning pipe is enjoyed by the elders of the 
village, cases are settled, and the evergreen topic of the 
cattle is discussed. 

The cattle are usually milked before going to pasture ; 
occasionally they are sent out to feed on the dewy grass 
and return to be milked. Morning and evening during the 
whole operation the big drum is beaten ; at Shaloba's 
village four drums of different owners are often sounding 
at once. The cows perfectly understand the significance 
of the drum-beats. After the milking the cattle remain in 
the flats the whole day,, accompanied by the herds, who 
carry their spears, pipes, vessels full of porridge, and possibly 
a native piano or two to while away the time. At about 
three or four in the afternoon the cattle, full to repletion, 
return and stand about in the vicinity of the village ; at 
dusk they file slowly in through clouds of penetrating dust, 
and the evening milking commences. 

We have seen that the Ba-ila are always ready to make 
a brave stand in defence of their cattle. Occasions fre- 
quently arise, particularly before the burning of the grass, 
when their reajiiness is sharply tested. Well over a hundred 
head are annually taken by lions, and the ensuing meeting 
between the owners and the marauders is invariably accom- 
panied by casualties on both sides. 

As far as we have been able to gather, the cattle of the 
Ba-ila are of the ordinary native African kind, improved by 
the introduction of big stock from the Barotsi and Lake 
Ngami countries, and suffering deterioration constantly 
from interbreeding. The ill effects of this latter practice 
are very marked. In a small herd half-a-dozen young 



two - year - olds may be constantly seen performing their 
functions unrestrained. Yet the Ba-ila understand and 
practise castration of the young males. No connection 
with the Zebu or humped cattle of India is apparent. 

The cattle owned by the Ba-ila amount to about seventy 
thousand, and are yearly increasing. Large though the 
number is, it is as nothing compared to the number before 
the rinderpest, when, we are told, the raiding of forty 
thousand made no apparent impression on the herds re- 
maining. The largest owners possess as many as six 
hundred. Few cattle are sold, as the Ba-ila have an exagger- 
ated idea of the value of their oxen, and have always been 
encouraged by their European advisers to retain their cows. 
A very large number of oxen is killed at the funeral feasts ; 
probably as many as two thousand annually. In every 
herd will be found some oxen, few or many according to the 
status of the owners, conspicuous for their size. These are 
the masunto {" funeral oxen "). They await their master's 
death, and are intended to provide the feast for his relations 
and mourners. Their hides form the grave bed. Great 
efforts are made, and high prices paid, to obtain them, and 
once secured they are not parted with. As many as a 
hundred head are killed at the funeral of a big chief ; this 
was the number at Shaloba II. 's funeral. Cows are seldom 
killed ; their value in the domestic economy is too great. 

One of the familiar sights of village life is a native seated 
on the ground lazily rocking to-and-fro a large calabash. 
This is the churn [insua), of which every hut has at least 
one. Where the chief wife has allotted to her use as many 
as thirty cows, and her sisters fewer in proportion, of course 
many more churns are required. Sour milk [mahishi], curds 
[hwanda), and whey (menzhambwe) are daily articles of diet, 
and to the use thus made of milk the Ba-ila largely owe their 
fine physique. Butter is constantly churned, and is used 
for anointing their bodies even more than for cooking or 

The cows form a large proportion of the chiko given for 
each bride, and are also continually changing ownership to 
pay fines and damages. Of the skins of oxen, belts, bags, 
beds, and skin petticoats are made. 

CH. V 



Annually two events of importance occur in the life of 
the herd which are marked by a good deal of ceremony. 
When the supply of drinking-water at the village grows 
scanty and the pasture poor, a departure is made for the 

Photo E. IV. Stnith. 

The Ba-ila Churn. 

river -bank : this is called kuwila. The herdsmen dress 
bravely, if fantastically, for the occasion, the young bloods 
with their spears charge to and fro, the women shriek, and 
with the drums beating vigorously, the cattle leave the pen 
and make down to the river, there to remain until the ponds 


are filled again and the young grass has sprouted. On the 
occasion of making a new post {lutanga) at the river, a 
young ox is sacrificed in the gateway and an offering of meal 
made to the spirits, north, south, east, and west. If the 
site is the time-honoured one, merely a distribution of 
tobacco is made to the herds. 

On the return to the village a few months later a similar 
ceremony is practised. This is called kuhola. Milk and 
butter are stored up for the occasion, the women grind 
large quantities of meal, and after the young men, bedaubed 
with white clay and decked in their war ornaments, have 
brought the cattle safely home, a big feast is made. 

The cattle are singularly free from disease. Fluke 
annually kills a certain number, and in some years appears 
in a virulent form. Redwater occasionally breaks out. 
Anthrax has appeared in late years. The cows at intervals 
suffer from contagious abortion. These, with calf-scour or 
diarrhoea, are practically the causes of the death of all 
cattle which are not seized by lions and crocodiles, or are 
not killed at funerals. Old age, of course, claims many 
victims. The Ba-ila are good cattle-masters, and exercise 
more intelligent care of their cattle than most natives, and 
to this fact and the suitability of the Kafue valley for cattle 
must be ascribed the herds' immunity from disease. Of 
herbal or other remedies they are almost entirely ignorant. 
A poisonous water grass known as kankolwa grows in some 
pools, and is to be carefully avoided. Tulp is unknown. 

Having always been struck by the affection shown by 
the Ba-ila for their cattle, we once asked a prominent man 
whether they did not mourn for them as they mourn for 
their deceased friends and relations. His answer, recorded 
by us verbatim at the time, is interesting. Said he : " When 
an ox dies by natural causes or is killed by a wild beast, we 
simply skin it ; the owner, however much he loves the 
beast, does not summon people to assist him in weeping 
for it. No. As soon as it dies, the owner simply distributes 
the joints, keeping his own portion, and they eat. In the 
eating of the beast is where the weeping comes in. If one 
eats and asks, ' What meat is this we are eating ? ' or if it 
be a visitor who asks, some one will reply, ' The beast is 

CH. V 



an ox,' and just there upon the asking they will lament, 
saying, ' So-and-so's beast is destroyed, it is dead.' And 
the owner of the ox in the same way laments while eating 
the meat of it; says he, ' My ox is destroyed, it is dead.' 
That is all ; he who is bereft of a beast does not mourn by 
shrieking aloud, ' Mawe, Mawe.' No : only just by saying, 
' It is destroyed, it is dead.' Still at the same time he eats 
the meat. That is the mourning for cattle, a mourning 
which ends in the cooking-pot. It is like to a person who 

Photo E. n: Smith. 

Cattle on the Kafue Plain. 

gets his honey spilt on the ground. When it is spilt, the 
owner cries, ' My honey is spoilt.' At the same time he 
gathers up what he can and eats it. Or if one has his fat 
spilt, he cries, ' My fat is spoilt.' Some of what is spilt he 
will anoint himself with. One who is hungry takes out his 
seed-corn and eats, and while eating says, * My seed-corn 
which- 1 eat is destroyed.' So of the matter you ask about, 
it is said. This is the mourning for the oxen ; that which 
you eat is not destroyed, that which you do not eat is what 
is destroyed." 

It is difficult to imagine the Ba-ila without their cattle, 
and it is sincerely to be hoped that they may long remain 


in possession of them. They are a hostage for their good 
behaviour. Should calamity or plague befall them, the seeds 
of unrest and dissatisfaction now latent and subdued would 
find a fruitful soil. 

Other domestic animals kept by the Ba-ila are dogs, 
goats, sheep, fowls, and pigeons. 

The dogs are very numerous, every village sv/arming 
with them. They are miserable creatures, gaunt, half- 
starved, noisy, cowardly, with pointed ears and bushy tails ; 
they howl, but do not bark. They have to fend for them- 
selves, and are regarded with little or no affection. An 
exception must be made in the case of the hunting dogs, 
which are well taken care of. The Ba-ila admire a fine 
dog, and often would be wilUng to give a European an ox 
for a good one. We knew one chief who was quite a dog- 
fancier, and ascribed his affiuence to his dogs. 

Goats and sheep are more numerous among the Bambala 
than in the Bwila, as the country is more suited to them. 
Both are of an inferior breed. 

The fowls are remarkable for their tiny size ; the hens 
are very prolific, and very good mothers. They roost 
where they can, the only provision for their comfort being 
little conical laying-places. The eggs are no larger than 
pheasant eggs. 

Pigeons are largely kept by the Bambala, and not so 
much by the Ba-ila. Cotes are built for them on tall plat- 
forms in the villages, and they are well cared for. Why 
they are kept is rather a mystery to us, for they serve no 
utilitarian purpose as far as we can see. The only reason 
ever given is that the people like to see them. 



I. Methods of Agriculture 

The dweller in a civilised country has great difficulty in 
realising the close relation of the savage to the soil. The 
produce of the world pours into the Homeland from all 
quarters. The deficiency from one quarter is supplied by 
the surplus from another, and therefore famine, the actual 
absence of foodstuffs, is unknown. Amongst a savage 
people if, whether from a drought or a deluge, the crops 
fail, no degree of purchasing power can supply the deficiency ; 
hunger is speedily and actually felt. 

When brought face to face with these facts it becomes 
easy to understand the eagerness with which a native will 
seek for the aid of one who has obtained reputation as a 
rain-maker, and the readiness with which he submits to be 
gulled by the pretender. Few travellers in Central Africa 
have not been appealed to for rain, and although occasion- 
ally a spirit of mischief has been allowed play, the majority 
emphatically disavow any connection with the occult arts. 

The acquaintance of the Ba-ila with the principles of 
agriculture is very slight ; of fallowing, rotation of crops, 
manuring, seed selection, they know nothing. They have, 
however, learnt by experience the best way of cultivating 
the simple crops they grow and industriously labour in the 
light of that experience. 

Many endeavours have been made to induce them to 
improve their methods, so far without result. There is 
nevertheless a growing tendency to observe and enquire, 





and as soon as one consents to make a start he will be 
followed by a host of imitators. 

Their present methods are extremely wasteful, both of 
labour and land. A man desirous of hoeing a garden selects 
a piece of land, preferably in the bush, that commends itself 
to him and his wife, arguing very sensibly that if it will 
grow timber it will surely grow grain. Should the land fall 
within the boundaries of another kraal or district he simply 
asks permission to cultivate, and it is readily and freely 
given, no such custom as paying rent being known to the 

Photo E. ir. Smith. 

Filling the Grain Bin. 

Ba-ila. It must be understood, of course, that he acquires 
no proprietary rights in this way. Matters being arranged, 
he, before winter is too far advanced, in order that the hot 
months before the rains may render the wood combustible, 
armed with a small hatchet, lops off all the branches of each 
tree in the field and then piles them carefully around the 
base. After allowing them to dry for two or three months 
he sets fire to the heaps, and the ground is free for the wife 
to commence her labours. The charred stumps of the trees 
are left standing. While the native is aware of the fertilising 
power of the ash, it must be admitted that he utilises fire 
as the readiest method of getting rid of the timber. 


When the sweet scent of the violet blossoms of the 
■mufufuma tree fills the air and the Pleiades are visible in the 
East after sunset, the wife recognises that the time has 
come for her to commence her labours. Assisted by the 
members of her household she starts to hoe the ground, 
stacking the grass and rubbish in large heaps until dry 
enough to burn, her husband meanwhile hoeing his own 
little patch. As soon as the ground is hoed it is sown. The 
seed may lie in the ground two or three weeks waiting for 
rain, and as a result sprouts readily after a good shower. 
Should the shower be a scanty one the seed rots and the 
field has to be resown. 

When the first young shoots appear, the tiresome work 
of watching commences. Pheasant (properly, francolin) are 
extraordinarily plentiful, and an extraordinary nuisance ; 
so clever are some of them that they will follow the marks 
of the hoe and scratch up the fresh grain before it has 
sprouted. Unless for the space of ten days — by which time 
the mealies are firmly established — the field is constantly 
watched, it has to be sown again and again. When the 
mealies are safely over this first stage but little more is 
done to them ; two hoeings when the weeds are six to eight 
inches high suffice to keep them clean, after which the 
owner has to be constantly on the watch against the depre- 
dations of monkeys and baboons by day and bush-pigs by 

A curious incident came to our notice in the beginning of 
1905. Grain was scarce, and the people were expectantly 
awaiting the new harvest. In the Bambwe district a man 
was lying in wait one night for bush-pig ; hearing the mealies 
rustling and cracking he cautiously crept up to the place, 
and seeing a dark object hurled his spear at it. The figure 
fell, and rushing up in triumph he found to his horror that 
the object was a slave woman who had been creeping 
through the garden gathering green mealies to appease her 

While the main cereal crop of maize or sorghum is 
ripening, the family dig fresh plots for beans or potatoes, 
or for sowing the following year. 

The first year's crops are invariably small, being what 




they style hukunku, realising that the soil is not yet properly 
weathered and sweetened. The second crop is usually a 
good one ; the third gives warning that another stretch 
of primeval bush must be attacked and burnt, while the 
late garden relapses into jungle. 

When the jdyous time of harvest arrives all the people 
flock to the gardens, and stripping the cobs from the stalk, 
first husk them, and then tying two or three together by 
the sheaths put them into baskets for conveyance to the 
granaries, or, if the produce of a small plot and required 

Photo E. W. Smith. 

Grain Bins (Matala). 

for early consumption, to some tree near the village in the 
branches of which they are hung. The ears of the millet 
and sorghum are cut off, and the stalks, after being uprooted, 
are laid on the ground. There are three kinds of grain bins 
in use, one of which, the shumbwa, has been described 
already in connection with the huts. The masumpila are 
temporary cylindrical bins built of grain-stalks in the fields 
for the purpose of receiving the grain until it can be conveyed 
to the permanent granaries. These are called matala, and 
in many cases, owing to the white ants, have to be built 
afresh every year. The men, whose duty it is to cut the 
poles, build a cylindrical framework of wattles and poles 


upon four cross-pieces supported on forked sticks of some 
size. The women meanwhile cut the grass for thatching. 
The framework completed, the roof is built on the ground 
and lifted into position and thatched after the framework 
has been plastered with clay and filled with grain. As a 
finishing touch the women mould pairs of mammae, with 
the impande between, upon the bin in various places, and 
encircle the bin with a moulded figure of a serpent. The 
appearance presented by a number of these grain-bins is, 
as shown in the photograph, decidedly quaint. Some of 
the maize is strung on ropes of bark or hide in huge bundles 
named inkunku. Ground-nuts are stored on high platforms 
in the village. 

From whence the people derived the grains they sow 
is a question the answer to which is lost in the mists of 
ancient time. It is generally agreed among writers upon 
Africa that the varieties of sorghum sown are indigenous, 
but that maize and tobacco are importations probably 
introduced by the Portuguese. It can only be remarked 
that if this is correct the importations must have been made 
many centuries ago, since those things are now universally 
distributed through the continent. The natives have no 
knowledge of or traditions on the subject, beyond saying 
that Leza caused these gifts to descend ; and doubtless they 
enjoy their porridge and their pipe none the less for lack 
of knowing whence they come. 

An interesting custom at the commencement of the rains 
must be noted. The people on the day after the first rain 
do no work ; this is kutonda Leza (" taboo the Rain-giver ") ; 
the idea is that any field-work done that day is an offence 
against him, which would prejudice the success of the sowing. 

One of the beliefs of the Ba-ila is that certain persons 
have chesha, a lucky-hand for sowing, and their services 
are in general request. Should the pumpkins sown by such 
a person fail to set after all, and rot when half-formed, one 
of the specked fruits is placed where a path divides into 
two, and the first comer who steps over the diseased fruit 
will convey the disease away to his own garden. 

The Ba-ila have no such feast of the first-fruits as the 
Zulus and other southern tribes have. Each man before 


eating of the new harvest — this is kusoma — makes an offering 
to his ancestral spirit of fresh cobs, which he places above 
the door and in the rafters, thereby expressing his gratitude 
and his hope of similar blessings in the future. It is bad 
form to celebrate the harvest in this way in the absence 
of your wife ; and until you have celebrated it and tasted of 
your own first-fruits you do not accept any present of new 
grain from another. 

The gardens of a family as a rule occupy about three 
acres of land, and their harvest returns range from three to 
five bags [i.e. 600-1000 lbs.) an acre. Lobengula, chief of 
the Matabele, always allowed a divorced woman three bags 
of grain for her subsistence until the next harvest. It is 
evident, therefore, that the Ba-ila are amply fed in a normal 
season. Their favourite grain is undoubtedly maize (mealies) 
of a very small mottled variety. A few on the red soil grow 
sorghum, and a large number millet. In addition, they 
grow sweet potatoes of three kinds, planting the runners in 
large mounds, beans of two kinds, one a bush variety and 
one bearing as the peanut underground, peanuts, marrows, 
gourds for household use and for making churns, pumpkins, 
and a tuber called miseza, which slightly resembles a 
Jerusalem artichoke. Cassava, introduced from the west, 
is largely cultivated by the Nanzela people, and is slowly, 
very slowly, making its way among the Ba-ila. Its ad- 
vantage as a foodstuff is great, for it is easily propagated, 
branches of the plant being merely stuck into the ground, 
it requires a minimum of attention, and it is not subject to 
the ravages of the locust. 

Some years ago an attempt was made to introduce cotton- 
growing amongst the natives. It was already growing wild 
in some parts. Considerable enthusiasm was aroused, and 
a few bales grown entirely by natives fetched io|d. a lb. 
on the Liverpool market. For some reason, the experiment 
when successfully inaugurated was allowed to fall through. 

2. A Calendar 

The year is reckoned by the Ba-ila to commence with 
the rising of the Pleiades. Their division of it into months, 


or rather moons {miezhi) will be dealt with in another 
connection ; here we give a brief conspectus of the work 
done in the different seasons. This must be taken as 
approximate only. The work is governed by the rains, 
and as these vary in amount, and to some extent in time, 
from year to year the work may be accelerated or retarded 

September. — The men roof and thatch huts. Cattle 
taken to the outposts [kuwila). People begin to go off to 
the fields [kuonzoka). The imbtila fruit begins to ripen. 
Cassava planted. Maize planted in the malemhwe, i.e. in 
the gardens on the river-bank. Lwando fishing (see p. 161), 
also in pools left from last season. The Shimunenga festival 
at Mala (see Chap. XXII.). 

October. — Clouds begin to gather ; field-work pushed 
ahead. Men busy with the luvhuna, trees cut in fields. 
Mawi fruit ripens. People plant the kaubwiubwi, i.e. maize, 
sorghum, and millet in the dry soil before the rains come. 
Also ground-beans and miseza. Fishing still in pools. A 
few showers fall. 

November. — Early rains. People busy planting all grain. 
They begin to eat pumpkins from the malemhwe. Forest 
fruits ripe. 

December. — Rains on, with perhaps a break. Weeding 
in fields. Planting the namutompo, i.e. grain intended to 
be harvested after the rest. Sweet potatoes planted. 
Harvesting the malemhwe. The shikisu and mangvhuma 
fruits ripen. Cattle return to the villages {kubola). The 
ikuo fishing. 

January. — In a heavy season the flats fill up. Fields 
are being hoed. Men begin to funga, i.e. visit the hairdresser 
(see p. 71). 

February. — Slack month. Heavy rains. The imhula 
fruit ceases. 

March. — In an average 5^ear the flats fill up the first 
week. At the end of the month, the women begin to harvest 
the maize, and the men to build the matala. But the 
natives say, the work of the month is— eating. New fields 
(hushinde) prepared for next year. At Nanzela the girls' 
initiation begins. 


April. — Begin to harvest peanuts and build the plat- 
forms for storing them. Millet harvest. 

May. — Sorghum harvest. Festivals of Bulongo and 
Nachilomwe at Mala (see Chap. XXII.). 

June. — May still be harvesting nuts. Cold this month ; 
not much work done. (Men getting anxious about the hut 
tax, which is payable July i.) 

July. — If a new village is to be built, women begin to 
cut grass. The men lobokezha mile, i.e. gradually collect 
bundles of building-poles, and set about it in earnest when 
the grass is collected. When the veld-fires begin the men 
go hunting. The mielo fishing (see p. 163). 

August. — Beginning to get warm. Houses built. Cas- 
sava planted. Pumpkins planted in malemhwe. Lwando 
fishing (see p. 161). 

3. Foods and Cooking 

The Ba-ila know how to make fire by friction, but it is 
only necessary to resort to the practice when they are at a 
distance from habitations, for in the villages fires are always 
burning. There seem to be no occasions upon which all 
fires are extinguished and new fire has to be got by friction. 
After a funeral, when all the ashes from the mourners' fires 
are collected and thrown away, the outside fires are put out, 
but the hearth-fires remain in the huts. Fires are made in 
the huts, each of which has its fireplace. For a hut to have 
no fire in it is reckoned very bad, not only for the con- 
venience of the hving, but also for the comfort of the family 
ghosts who live in the hut. The coldness and darkness of 
a fireless house has a special name — kanekezhi. 

There are few ceremonial observances and taboos in con- 
nection with fire. It is taboo to take a firestick (chishishi) 
from the hearth and carry it into another house ; should 
this be done the lady of the house would shikula, i.e. get out 
of favour with her husband and be divorced. No men- 
struating woman may tend a fire or carry water or food. 
When the owner of a house has musamo, " medicine " for 
protection, it is taboo for any one to take fire or water out 
of his house after sunset. If he wants to light his pipe, or AGRICULTURE; FOODS; NARCOTICS 143 

drink water, he must enter the hut hmiself for the purpose. 
It is also taboo under such circumstances to carry into the 
hut an uncovered water-vessel or pot of meal ; but the 
taboo can be removed by first sprinkling a little of the water 
or meal outside the threshold. 

When it becomes necessary to make fire by friction, two 
sticks are taken to make the drill. The lower one is called 
chikazhi (" the female ") and has a small hole drilled in it ; 
it is taken from any suitable tree. The other is named the 
lupika (" the twirler ") and is regarded as a male ; any 
suitable stick can be used, the best is from the namunku- 
lungu tree. Bits of dry grass or rag are used as tinder, and 
placed near the chikazhi to receive the spark which is care- 
fully nursed into a flame. The lupika is taken between 
the palms and twirled ; it is a tiresome process, and gener- 
ally two or three men have to take turns before a flame 
is produced. 

Ordinarily in a village fire is conveyed {kulapa) by 
carrying live coals on a potsherd. When going on a short 
journey into the veld it is the duty of one member of the 
party to carry a suppty of fire in this way. 

The customary fuel is wood, of which in most parts of 
the country there is a plentiful supply, but in some places it 
has to be fetched from afar. In the Butwa, where no trees 
are found, the people have to burn reeds and grass. Kraal 
manure is not much used as fuel except in the mikwashi. 

When the veld is on fire precautions are taken by clearing 
away grass around the village ; this is done by carefully 
burning the grass and keeping the fire well under control 
by beating with sticks. Houses, and sometimes whole 
villages, are frequently burnt through carelessness. 

Cooking is done in the living-hut or outside. When the 
fire is outside there is no fixed hearth, but stones (where 
there are stones) or moulded lumps of hard clay or the 
small conical heaps of the kamhuswa ant are used to support 
the cooking-pot. 

Nature has very bountifully provided for the necessities 
of the Ba-ila. Famines caused by drought do occur, but 
the destitution is never absolute on account of the wild 
animals and the wild fruits that can be used as food. Locusts, 


it may be mentioned here, used in our early days of residence 
to give much trouble, but in more recent years seem to have 
disappeared entirely. 

The staple foods of the Ba-ila are porridge {inshima) and 
sour milk [mahishi). In the tsetse-fly districts the latter, 
of course, is unobtainable, and the lack of it is seen in the 
wretched condition of the children, and cannot fail to affect 
the physique of the adults. While these are the staple 
foods there is a very large variety of others, varying from 
season to season. Towards the end of the old year, and 
early in the new, say from December to February, when the 
grain supplies have run out or become scanty, a large purple 
berry known as shikisu is the sole article at many meals. 
Yet in a good season there is an abundance of other food 
at the beginning of the year. In the first week of January 
1915 we were passing Kasamo, and saw in the evening (too 
late to photograph) a long string of men, women, and 
children returning to the village from fishing in the flats. 
Many of them were bearing the fishing-traps, and others 
baskets full of fish. The whole place was reeking with 
drying fish. At the same time there was another procession 
coming in from the riverside gardens [malemhwe) laden with 
big baskets of green corn and pumpkins. Fish may be 
said to be a staple food at this time of the year. When the 
crops are ripe the green corn gives way to meal, made by 
stamping or grinding, and cooked in the form of porridge. 
Later, when the water in the flats subsides and hunting 
becomes easy, a flesh diet fills the greater part of the bill- 
of-fare. Later still, when game ceases to be killed, the 
fruit harvest proper commences. In addition to the four 
species of grain many vegetables are grown, and these form 
the solid diet at many meals. Milk in one form or another, 
and beer in several forms, are the drink of the country. 
When the rules for the upbringing of youths were stricter 
than they are now, the herd-boys lived almost exclusively 
on curds and whey, only getting porridge by stealth from 
their mothers. 

These people enjoy meat above all things. " Ndafwa 
inkosha" ("I am suffering from meat-hunger") is the 
complaint one hears most frequently from their lips. All AGRICULTURE; FOODS; NARCOTICS 145 

portions of an animal, save only the genitals of a female, 
are eaten. The munyopani, the lower bowel and flesh 
around it, is considered a delicacy. Blood is eaten in the 
coagulated state ; it is cooked with salt ; only it may not 
be eaten by any one who is liable to bleeding at the nose, 
a prohibition extended also to the sweetbread. The varieties 
of buck in the district number a score and are all eaten, 
and there are numerous small animals and birds also used 
for food. This statement has to be qualified, however, by 
reference to the numerous totem and other taboos to be 
described subsequently. And we shall presently draw ^ 
attention to the fact that the Ba-ila proper refrain from 
eating certain animals that are eaten by Bambala or 

A meal consisting of ten pounds of meat is considered 
a fair one, and probably more is consumed in an all-night 
sitting. Fowls are eaten frequently, but eggs seldom ; if 
the latter are eaten it is immaterial how nearly they ap- 
proximate chickens, indeed the more nearly an egg is a 
chicken the better— all the more meat. But the people 
prefer to allow the eggs to hatch. 

Set meals at regular times, as we know them, are not the 
custom of the Ba-ila. Two or three meals of a kind are taken 
daily — morning, noon, and evening, or morning and evening 
only. The wife cooks a certain quantity, varying according 
to the supphes and her energy at the moment, and awaits 
the arrival of her husband from work or hunting. The 
eating is soon over, in little more than five minutes on 
ordinary occasions. The sexes eat separately, but the rule 
is not absolute, except that women may not eat in company 
with male visitors ; one often sees man, wife, and children 
sitting and eating together. No preliminary rite is per- 
formed ; except that a person visiting at a relative's will 
first scatter a httle food on the ground as an offering to the 
family ghosts. With a pot or two in front of them, one of 
thick porridge, and another of relish, each dips in his or her 
fingers, takes up a mouthful of porridge, dips it into the 
gravy or other rehsh, and eats in turn. When you wish 
to honour a visitor you give him a choice dish {kumusa- 
pwidila) : porridge cooked with sour milk and butter, and a 



pot of gravy and meat. Having eaten at home they move 
round amongst their friends and relatives and partake as 
a matter of course of any food they find being eaten. As 
fresh supplies in time of plenty are constantly ready 
somewhere, it is impossible to estimate the quantity eaten 
by a person in a day. Three pounds of grain is considered 
an ample ration for employees. 

The Ba-ila have no ovens or frying-pans ; their only 
cooking utensil is the earthenware pot, and consequently 
their methods are confined to boiling or stewing, and roasting 
on the embers. All their food is cooked in one or the other 
of these methods. 

When they are on a journey, or there is no time or 
energy or facility for preparing flour, they often boil and 
eat the grain whole. This is called musozha. It is not a 
wholesome method, as, owing to insufficient mastication, the 
hard covering of the grain is not broken up and is not 

Meal is prepared by stamping [kutwa) or by grinding 
{kuzhia) . In stamping, use is made of a large wooden mortar 
and pestle [inkidi, munsha). When a woman sets herself, 
as many of them do, to prepare a fine white flour, the pro- 
cess is somewhat lengthy, and involves winnowing and re- 
stamping, there being quite a vocabulary of words to describe 
the various stages. The grinding is done between two 
stones on a platform erected under the eaves of the hut. 
The lower stone {ibwe) is surrounded by a basin-like con- 
trivance of clay to catch the meal and grain slipping away 
unground. Holding the upper stone, cylindrical in form 
(impelwe), in both hands, the woman grinds the corn, which 
she places in front of the stone, backwards and forwards, 
till it falls out as meal into the basin. This is at once ready 
for use, no winnowing being thought necessary ; it must 
contain minute particles of stone dust which cannot be good 
for the intestines. 

Porridge is made by adding some flour gradually to 
boiling water in a pot over the fire ; it is stirred up, and as 
soon as the stirring-stick stands upright in the mass the 
cooking is deemed sufficient, and the porridge is ready for 

Beans, small marrows, leaves, and other vegetables are 

Fish are spitchcocked by means of a stick passed through 

,x> ■"•-■?>• 


Photo F. W. Smith. 

Balumbu Women stamping Cokn. 

from mouth to tail and broiled, the spit resting on two short 
forked sticks before the fire. Small fish are boiled, large 
fish, such as barbel, are cut up and boiled, or roasted in 
the embers. 

Meat is broiled on the embers. Hunters on cutting up 


an animal eat titbits from the still quivering flesh after 
roasting them in this way for a few minutes. Meat is also 
stewed in pots. 

Slices of pumpkin are broiled in the rind or boiled. 
Peanuts are roasted in the hot ashes in the shells, or are 
shelled and boiled, or are crushed and boiled with other 

There are two varieties of cassava, the farinaceous roots 
of which are eaten ; one is sweet and can be cooked and 
eaten straightway, but the bitter kind contains hydrocyanic 
acid, and must be steeped in water to remove the poison. 
The roots are not made into flour, but are either eaten raw 
or are boiled or roasted in the ashes. 

Some fruits are cut up, dried in the sun, and kept for 
use later. A few foods, such as peanuts, miseza, sorghum, 
and a kind of maize are cooked and then preserved in cala- 
bashes and pots. To do this is kuampula, and the preserved 
provision is called shidyo shampule ; it is highly esteemed 
for its sweetness. A person who is in a hurry to unseal and 
eat these delicacies has a special name given him ; he is 
called a shizwazwale. 

Salt as an article of diet is much prized by the Ba-ila, 
and is perhaps the thing they lack most. Nowadays they 
can buy fine salt in the European stores, but left to their 
own devices the only way they can get it is by filtering 
and evaporating the saline soil of certain localities. The 
Basanga district is the chief salt producer. A long wooden 
trough, like a canoe, is hollowed out of a tree-trunk. Baskets, 
called inshika, are placed four or five in a row upon sticks 
put across the trough. The baskets are filled with the earth, 
and water poured on which drains through into the trough, 
carrying the salt with it. The solution is evaporated in 
potsherds over fires, and the salt gathered into baskets, a 
foot long and 3 inches in diameter. Such baskets are a 
form of currency. Five of them were the price of a male 
calf, three of a sucking calf, and twenty of a heifer. 

The Bambala make salt from the kampokompoko, a 
plant growing on the river-banks It is gathered, dried, 
and burnt ; water is run through the ashes, the solution is 
evaporated, and the saline deposit collected. 


Beer is made from various materials. Imbote (" honey 
beer ") is made of mankanza a mana, the honeycomb full of 
young bees, mixed with honey and water. The mixture 
is placed in a narrow-mouthed calabash (iloba), and set 
near a fire or in the sunshine to ferment ; next day it is 
ready for drinking, or if there is need it can be made in the 
morning and drunk the same evening. It is said to be 
very intoxicating. 

Beer made from grain is of three kinds, differing in the 
degree to which they are fermented ; one {ihwantu, chihwantu 
namala) is mild, the others {hukoko, funku) are stronger. 
To brew beer is kukumha. The following is the process for 
brewing fimku. To prepare the malt [humena] grain is put 
into a calabash with water, covered over and left three 
days ; the water is then poured off, and leaves from the 
mimto tree are put with the grain for the purpose of making 
the malt " fierce " {lemana). This is left for another two 
days. Then other grain is soaked, and next day is dried, 
made into fine flour, boiled with water, and set to cool. 
The malt is crushed and added to this and well worked up 
with the hands, and left all next day. On the following 
day the mixture is cooked, and gets the name mozhozho. 
Next day it stands, and on the following day other malt is 
added ; it is now matimha. The same day other grain is 
stamped and soaked in water ; next day it is crushed and 
boiled ; this is the kakonde, which is added to the matimha. 
Then other meal is cooked and mixed up well : this is muwa, 
and is added to the matimha. Next day the product is 
fimku, and ready to be consumed. It is highly intoxicating. 

4. A List of Foods and Drinks 

The following is a fairly complete list of the things con- 
sumed by the Ba-ila. Note : * means that the article is used 
by some people only, and is taboo to others ; ** by Balumbu 
only, not by Ba-ila proper ; *** by Bambala only, not by 
Ba-ila proper ; **** by boys only, more or less stealthily. 

Cultivated Grain. — Mapopwe (maize), macheme, kolwe, 
matuba (sorghums), masi (millet), and lubele (a kind of eleusine). 
Of these the Ba-ila proper prefer the maize, the Bambala the 
sorghum, and the Balumbu the millet. 


Uncultivated Grain. — Chitonga and muswenge : two wild 
varieties growing in the swamps ; they are palatable and largely 
eaten by the Batwa. 

Pumpkins, Marrows, Gourds, various kinds. — Ipushi, mungu, 
impungu, kampande, muntemba, namundalanga, matanga 
(melon), makoa (cucumbers). 

Other Cultivated Things.- — Imbata, kandolo (sweet potatoes), 
miseza (a small tuber), inyemu (peanuts), imbwila (ground pea), 
intalabanda (beans), makamba (cassava). 

Leaves of Wild Plants used as vegetables. — Ipububu, mupika, 
mpampachiubo, impoko (also chewed raw), lutende, bunkululu, 
ihubu, sonkwe, namukalakanyemu, ibondwe. 

Various Wild Roots and Bulbs. — Intonge (roots of the chisa- 
kabale palm, eaten raw, boiled or roasted) ; mantembe, manko- 
longwa, busala (poisonous bulbs, cut up and steeped in water 
three or four days, dried and ground) ; impuzha, inyani (roots, 
chewed raw) ; inkobwa (root of a tree, chewed raw or roasted, 
remains spat out) ; makweyo, imbe (water-lily roots, eaten raw 
or cooked) ; imangu (a water plant, peeled, and the inside eaten 

Wild Fruits. — Matobo, chibumbu (seeds picked out) ; inkuzu 
(wild fig), imbula, isole, imbu, chibulanshi, shikisu, chisombwe, 
chivubika ; munsansa (wild grape), mangomba ; mawi, metu 
(hard-rind wild oranges) ; mankomona (palm fruit) ; bunguntanga 
(a wild marrow, seeds taken out, stamped and added to relish, 
meat, or vegetable) ; intumbulwa ; malolo (may not be roasted) ; 
chilumbalumba (sucked and the seed spat out), inshushu,^ 
insekwa ; mabuzu ^ (baobab fruit), bufumbo, mabungo. 

Various Dishes. — Chimbulu cha masi (millet cooked whole 
with powdered peanuts) ; budyodyo (ground peas and beans 
cooked together) ; chindambwa (porridge made of meal and 
powdered peanuts) ; kayobe, katongola (peanuts broken up, 
cooked with salt) ; museta (bits of mankomona fruit beaten up 
with nut meal and salt, eaten raw) ; mangvhungvhuma (pea- 
nuts boiled in their shells). 

Animals eaten.- — Chinengwe (ant-bear), munyati * (buffalo), 
nkuntula (bush-pig), inzuzhi (cerval), chibila (coney), nakasha* 
(duiker), musefu * (eland), muzovu * (elephant), sulwe* (hare), 
konze * (hartebeest) , chivhub we (hippopotamus), mwaba* (jackal), 
ngombani (klipsp ringer), namutentaula (kudu), nanja (lechwe), 
shimidima* (lemur), shumbwa* (lion), shiluwe* (leopard), sokwe* 
(monkey) , shilumba (muirkat) , nakaf wif wi * (oribi) , chibawe (otter) , 

^ Ripens in the rainy season. It is taboo to roast it in the rainy- 
season, lest the grain should dry up. 

^ It is taboo to suck the seeds ; you should soak them in water, stir 
and drink, otherwise a crocodile will bite you. AGRICULTURE; FOODS; NARCOTICS 151 

nanzeli (pallah), chaminungwe (porcupine), shikisunu * (puku), 
mucheka** (python), fungwe (rat el), naluvwi * (reedbuck), she- 
mpela (rhinoceros), chilumbulumbu (roan antelope), katanta (sable 
antelope), polongwe (elephant shrew), shichinzobe (situtunga), 
kanyimba (skunk), namunkwize (spring-hare), shikonzo (squirrel), 
timba (steinbok), fulwe (tortoise), mukulo* (waterbuck), shankocli 
(wart-hog) , munyumbwi (gnu), chibizi* (zebra), inshimba (genet), 
chinao (wild-cat), shimatuya (a long-haired, genet-like animal), 
mwalangane (white-tailed, badger?), malama * (cheetah), shilu- 
fukwe ** (mole), imbeba *** (field-rat), chiwena ** (crocodile), 
nabulwe (iguana), inkwikwi (locusts), inswa (termites in flying 

Birds eaten. — Kanzambwa (bittern), shimampodio (black- 
capped bulbul), tumbwe (bush-shrike), shichiboba (bustard), 
shikakonze (buzzard eagle), nyungwe * (capped wheat-ear); 
lukobo (cattle egret) , inkwizhikwizhi (common bulbul) , namuwane 
(crested crane), lubutwi (dikkop), milondwe (diver), shichi- 
nshainshai (Egyptian goose), ikobozhi (great white egret), shikwaze 
(fish eagle), moze (flamingo), kwale (francolin), lubangwa (grey 
hombill), inkanga (guinea-fowl), shinamambwe (heron), inanda- 
nanda (jacana),icheche (Jardine's babbler), shapidio**** (kestrel), 
bimbe**** (kite), shichinkotwe (knob-nosed goose), shikulekule 
(lapmng), chidiongwe (long-tailed shrike), shikabila (marabout 
stork), shiakotomanuma (paradise widow bird), kazhimusha 
(painted snipe), shifundwe (pelican), inchoya (pochard), kanko- 
wulu (red-crested korhaan), kanchele **** (redwing, if eaten by 
adults they would chelumuka, i.e. become destitute), shijingongo 
(sand grouse), chivhwevhwe (Senegal concal), nachisekwe (spur- 
winged goose), nakakodio (stork), shimombampako (striped king- 
fisher), shikandyondyo (Temminck's courser), shimowe (lesser 
toucan), shibwididi (wild duck), inzhiba, inkwidimba, kalu- 
ngunzhiba (pigeons), intite (a tiny bird), busokoshi (fink), indea 
(a blackbird). 

Fish eaten. — Imbavu (bream), mubondo (barbel), chisekele, 
intungu, kalongwe, mulopwe, mulumbu, muzonzwe, shaluzuke,* 
sliimbembe,* shimulele, inkungwe, pata, inzanzhi, shichokochoko. 

Drinks.- — -Menzhi (water), mukupa * (fresh milk),menze (whey), 
menzhambwe (whey and water), muhama (mixture of honey and 
water), imbote (honey beer), mema (palm wine), luswazhi (made 
from unripe imbula fruit, beaten up in a mortar with water, 
stood near fire or in sun ; after a day or two forms a pleasant 
non-intoxicating drink), mangvhuma (outside of palm-fruit cut 
off and boiled : when cool the liquid is drunk) , mabuzu (seeds of 
baobab soaked in water and the liquid drunk) , chibwantu namala, 
ibwantu, bukoko, funku (beers) ; various other fruits are steeped 
and the liquid drunk (mawi, chongola, shildsu, and bufumbo). 


5. Narcotics 

Tobacco is largely grown, especially among the Bambala, 
and is of a good quality, but they are very ignorant of the 
proper means of curing and preparing it. The seed is sown 
towards the end of the rainy season immediately under the 
shade of the hut roof, and the plants are transplanted when 
big enough to a fertile patch, preferably an ant-heap. No 
care is taken to pinch the suckers or to curtail the number 
of leaves, and the plants are allowed to set seed. They 
have two ways of preparing it. The kind called naluhotu 
or mukweka, is made of short leaves, pounded in a mortar 
and turned out in flat cakes ; this is very strong. Namakati, 
from long-leaved plants, is cooked and made into large 
sausage-shaped lumps, weighing ten pounds or more. They 
use pipes, with earthenware bowls and long reed stems. In 
smoking [kufweha) a piece of tobacco is broken off the lump, 
placed in the bowl with a live coal on it ; after a few whiffs 
the pipe is passed on to a companion. Both men and 
women smoke. 

Snuff [intomhwe) is made of tobacco and mudidima wa 
makweyo, the long flower-stalks of the water-lily. These 
stalks are plaited, cut up, and dried in sherds over a fire, 
and the residue ground up with tobacco. The glands of the 
kanyimba (skunk) are often added as a flavour. Snuff is 
carried in small globular seed-pods. 

Hemp {lubange) is also extensively grown, and is smoked 
in a kind of narghile : made with a large earthenware bowl, 
and a calabash stem, filled with water, through which the 
smoke is drawn. The hemp provokes coughing and makes 
the smoker insensible, and, if persisted in, senseless. It is a 
common thing when passing through a village to hear the 
characteristic violent coughing and wild exclamations coming 
from a hut in which one of these smokers is intoxicating 
himself. As he coughs and smokes he talks to his pipe: 
" Inzhimika. Mufuhu ati ulakumbila kudya " {" Make me 
unconscious ! The fool says he asks for food," — as if any 
one needs food when he can get hemp !). So we heard a 
man exclaim one day. 



I. Methods of Hunting 

Living amidst the wealth of game that has been described 
in a previous chapter, it would be surprising if the Ba-ila 
were not, as they are, keen lovers of hunting. 

Though indulging in several methods of hunting, it is 
undoubtedly the chase which most appeals to them, when 
with their couple of spears and the assistance of three or 
four mongrel lurchers they, by endurance and perseverance, 
actually run down their quarry. 

Hunting is followed more or less the wholfe year after 
purely native methods. 

A few there are, who, armed with the primitive but 
efficient six-foot bow and poisoned arrows, or with ancient 
muzzle-loader, stalk their game after European fashion. 
The fiercest animal is soon laid low when pierced with the 
slender arrow whose tip has been smeared with a mixture 
of fat and the ground seeds of the hulemhi creeper. 

The only form of native hunting abhorrent to the sports- 
man is that followed when the rains set in in earnest and 
the ground becomes boggy and soft. The natives then 
mancEuvre to drive their game towards these treacherous 
patches, and as the unfortunate animals flounder and sink 
they stab them one after the other. By these cruel and 
unsportsmanlike means a whole herd of zebra or wildebeest 
is frequently exterminated. A case is known to the writers 
where the natives, tired of killing, contented themselves 
at last with depriving a dozen or more living zebra of their 
tails for fly-whisks, and left them fast imbedded in the mud. 





It is only a year since seven hippopotami were actually 
killed in this manner. 

riwto E. If. Smith. 

Bows AND Arrows. 

It is at this time, just when the flats are beginning to 
fill, that the big hunts occur, when the inhabitants of several 


districts combine, to the number of several hundred men, to 
surround the herds of lechwe, which are slowly retreating 
before the deepening water. The unfortunate game, actually 
and not metaphorically between the devil and the deep sea, 
are speared sometimes by hundreds. The most repre- 
hensible feature of these " slaughter hunts " is that, as 
the lechwe skin is the favourite petticoat of a Mwila woman 
and as the rams are too large to be used for the purpose, it 
is the does that the destruction is primarily aimed at. 
There is little doubt that the Government will by degrees 
regulate this destruction. Against the unfortunate lechwe 
the campaign is directed the whole year round. As the 
water deepens and the numerous watercourses become 
impassable, the light hunting dug-out, drawing 3 inches 
of water, comes into use ; propelled by long lo-foot poles, 
it flies over the flooded flat and rarely returns as lightly 
laden as it went. An expert hunter will frequently kill 
half a dozen in a morning, if possible all does. As the year 
rolls on and the water recedes, the combined bands from 
the different kraals return and repeat their tactics. Having 
a perfect knowledge of the lie of the land and the depth of 
the water, it is not difficult to repeat their success. It 
might be thought that now for a period the lechwe would 
enjoy rest. On the contrary, the most harassing time is 
yet to come. When the flats are dry and burnt, the young 
bloods pour out on to the flats, accompanied by their dogs, 
and day after day chase the lechwe, still pursuing the 
harmless does, who being without horns cannot inflict the 
injury on the dogs that the rams can. At the same time 
the old hunters dig lines of cleverly concealed pitfalls in 
the vicinity of the water. While the lechwe hunting badly 
needs regulation, it is possible to blame the native too 
severely, who but follows the course he has pursued for 
centuries in endeavouring to obtain meat for his family and 
a skin dress for his wife. 

It is, however, a mistake to argue or suppose that these 
methods have been followed to the same degree for cen- 
turies. The writers have known men who, previous to the 
European occupation, had never been twelve miles from 
their village for fear of capture or death. It is the security 


engendered by the European occupation that has let loose 
these hundreds or thousands of hunters on the lechwe, and 
their invariable success cannot fail very seriously to diminish 
the numbers of this beautiful antelope. 

It is due to the natives to admit that there are those 
amongst them not less backward in following far more 
dangerous methods of hunting. Among these the old 
hippopotamus hunters, now fast vanishing, must be given 
the palm. The hunter, generally a middle-aged man, 
accompanied by a youth expert with the paddle, was accus- 
tomed to keep watch on a herd of hippo, who enjoy above 
all things a siesta on the water in the middle of the day. 
When one was observed isolated and sound asleep, the two 
shoved off in a tiny light dug-out canoe. The old man 
standing in the bow, armed with his heavy hippo spear 
with a shaft two inches thick and with a paddle between 
his feet, waited motionless while his assistant in the stern, 
with imperceptible strokes, without noise or ripple, brought 
the canoe within striking distance. The old man then 
launched his spear with all his force deep into the broad 
back, and while the monster hurled himself out of the water 
with a tremendous roar, seized his paddle and, both re- 
versing, assisted his companion to paddle the canoe to 
safety. If the first blow had been skilfully directed the 
hippopotamus soon exhausted himself by his struggles, the 
attack was repeated, and the end came quickly. 

A more prosaic method of killing was by means of a trap, 
not the ordinary harpoon trap released with a spring and 
suspended to a tree under which a well-worn hippo-path 
passes, but apparently a local invention. At some favourite 
grazing place a number of stout poles four or five feet long 
were arranged in two parallel lines ; at the end was a 
keen small blade about three or four inches long projecting 
upwards. Sooner or later, the hippopotamus grazing round 
and accustomed to snap all growth or dead wood amongst 
which he moved, brushed into the commonplace-looking 
trap, the keen blade penetrated, and his struggles to shake 
off the pole simply caused the heavily weighted blade to 
penetrate deeper. 

The Ba-ila make far less use of traps and nooses than 


most other native tribes, probably because in so rich a 
game country more straightforward methods give better 
results. The toze or noose-trap is employed by the herds 
and small boys for catching doves, francolin, and guinea-fowl, 
and at certain times of the year large numbers of spurwing 
geese are taken by its aid. The madiha, in which a stone is 
used for the ordinary fall-trap, is also much used by the 
httle boys. The trap shown in the sketch is set in a path 
in the forest to catch small antelope. A young sapling 
[mweto) is bent over, and to its end a strong cord attached, 
the extremity of which is formed into a noose [mafwiza). 
This is buried in a small hole [kadindi] in the ground, care- 
fully covered over with bits of bark [mapapo) and then 


Inkolongo y ^Kaponiponi 

.{5'^^ Mafwiza 


ic , . ii r$ > Monono 


Diagram of Game Trap. 

earth. Attached to the cord, above the loop, is a shorter 
string terminating in a small piece of wood tied crosswise 
{kaponiponi) which is hitched into the angle formed by the 
moitono and impopo, two pieces of wood which constitute 
the trigger. If an animal steps on the hole it depresses the 
monono, releases the trigger, the sapling straightens itself, 
and the noose catches round the foot of the animal, which 
finds itself jerked into the air a prisoner. The inkolongo is a 
cylinder of wood fastened to the cord to prevent the animal 
from releasing itself by biting through the cord. We have 
more than once, through stepping inadvertently on to a 
trap, found ourselves in this ignominious position, with one 
leg in the air fast, and quite helpless till released by our boys. 
The practice of digging pitfalls has largely fallen into 
disuse of late, viewed as it is with strong disfavour by 


European sportsmen, who object to being suddenly pre- 
cipitated into a deep hole, even if a stake or spear at the 
bottom is lacking. In the old days, advantage was taken 
of thick bush, the resort of eland, buffalo, and koodoo, and 
pitfalls extending for a couple of miles were skilfully dug. 
In the not infrequent event of a capture the meat was 
divided between the owner of the pit and the finder. 

The success with which the natives and their dogs pursue 
the lech we has already been dilated upon. This success 
is no less marked with other animals in the forest. In many 
places the wart-hog is almost exterminated, while roan and 
eland frequently fall victims,— these two species particu- 
larly because, disdaining to run from the dogs, they stand 
at bay, ignorant of the two-legged hunter with his darts 
panting behind. 

When, as often happens, the pig seeks refuge in a burrow, 
the hunter rejoices : his quarry is secure. Otherwise the 
pig stands a very sporting chance. His peculiar trot takes 
him over the ground at a pace that taxes the powers of a 
good pony if the going is at all rough. Having stopped the 
earth with a few thorns or branches, a smoke-fire generally 
brings the pig to the waiting spear, otherwise he has to be 
dug out. Knocking out his small axe blade, the hunter 
inserts it in the handle sideways, and thus obtains a hoe 
wherewith to dig, and in a few minutes all is over, 

A stranger visiting the Ila country will be struck by the 
number of men bearing scars on their bodies ; on making 
enquiries he will learn that many are the result of encounters 
with a lion or leopard. These honourable scars are gained 
either as the result of chance encounters, or as the outcome 
of a determined effort to save the precious cattle. Two 
such encounters were brought to our notice last year, when 
a solitary herd came upon a lion and a leopard respectively. 
In each case the beast was vanquished and slain. In each 
case also was the herdsman mauled by the beast, with 
fatal results. Some three years ago, the cattle of the chief 
Mwezwa of Nyambo were grazing at night in the vicinity, 
when a lion caught and killed a cow. Four young men in 
the morning went out to bring in the meat. On arriving 
at the carcase they found the lion still in possession. With- 


out hesitation they attacked him and kept up the fight 
until three had been mauled and bitten ; the fourth then 
went for assistance. These occurrences are repeated year 
after year. The Ba-ila boast with reason that they are not 
afraid of lions. The people of Makuzu are renowned for 
their prowess in this direction. This present year at 
Nalubanda a lion attacking their cattle was fought and 
killed, first mauling two of his assailants ; a third man 
received in his own chest a spear meant for the lion and 
succumbed to his wound. These are deeds worthy of men, 
and it is impossible to withhold our admiration and respect 
from men performing them. 

We have known men who have a special feud against 
the fierce beasts. If a man's relation has been mauled, and 
more especially if he has been killed by a lion or leopard, 
he declares his unfailing enmity against the whole species, 
and loses no opportunity of killing them. 

Possibly the remark may not be taken amiss if we urge 
those who feel they have hardly the right to risk their lives 
in following dangerous game — those who have given hostages 
to fortune — to leave them alone altogether. No sportsman 
has the right to fire at dangerous game if he is not prepared 
to follow it to the bitter end in thick covert. White men 
are still scarce in some parts of the territory, and tales of 
men, happily rare, throwing down their rifles after firing, 
and running, or of a camera which had to be recovered the 
next day, seriously diminish the prestige of the white race. 
The writers well remember the interest with which enquiries 
were made as to the nationality of a man who safely and 
comfortably shot two buffalo from a tree. It is sufficient 
to add that he was not a Briton. 

2. Methods of Fishing 

The Kafue, its lagoons and tributaries swarm with fish, 
and the Ba-ila make extensive use as food and merchandise 
of the fish which they catch in enormous numbers by means 
of ingenious contrivances. At certain seasons one meets 
long processions of men, women, and children coming up 
from the river all laden with fish. We counted once fifteen 




baskets each containing over a hundred bream of about 
three pounds weight — over two tons of fish as the result of 
one day's fishing. Of bream there are twelve varieties, two 
of barbel, and tiger-fish, ground-fish, and mud-fish complete 
another round dozen. 

The simplest way of fishing is to wade into a shallow 
pool and grope with the hands for the fish hidden away in 
the mud at the bottom. 

The Ba-ila use hooks called mavwezhi — the generic name 

P!toto E. W. Smith. 

A Quick Catch. 

being tuloho — and as bait {hupo) bits of meat or fish. The 
ivwezhi is a hook of iron, 2f inches long and i| inches across, 
tapering to a point without a barb. They do not angle as 
we do. The hook is tied by a strong string to reeds on the 
river-brink, and there being no float it sinks as far as the 
line allows. The fisher returns at intervals to examine it. 
Or the baited hook is tied by a string to a bundle of reeds 
and thrown into the stream. The fisher watches its progress 
down stream, and when he has reason to think a fish is 
caught he goes in a canoe to pull in the hook. 

Fish are speared with the barbed fish-spears [mmmha) 


in different ways. Two men go along in a canoe, one 
paddling, the other armed with a fish-spear elongated by- 
means of a reed attached to it. As the canoe 
glides along he shoots the spear into the water at 
random, sliding the long shaft through his hand 
so as to keep control over it. Most times he gets 
nothing, but it is astonishing to see the number 
of fish they can impale in an hour in this fashion. 

In the early part of the rainy season when the dry 
watercourses begin to fill and join company again with the 
river, the fish, so the natives say, come out of the rivers 
into these tributaries to chela, i.e. to find food. Whether 
that be actually so or not, certain it is that the fish are there 
in great numbers, and the people take advantage of it. 
Hundreds of men armed with miumha wade up and down 
these streams, prodding as they go, and in a very short time 
go off laden with fish, immense barbel for the most part. 
Often this fishing takes place at night, by torchhght. This 
method is named ikuo. In August or September the pro- 
cess is repeated in the large pools left by the last season's 
floods, and once again they gain a rich harvest. 

They have also ways of constructing weirs for entrapping 
fish. Small streams, which later on will dry up, are dammed 
[kushinkidizha) so as to allow only some of the water to 
escape ; as the stream dries the fish are unable to get away, 
and are simply scooped up above the dam. Among the 
rocks on the bank of the Kafue the spaces are blocked, and 
as the river falls many fish are stranded in the same way. 

The Balumbu have a method not employed by the 
Ba-ila proper. In the spring (September or October) they 
make a Iwando, a long open-work reed mat, attached 
to which is a supplementary mat, called masamhala, to 
prevent the fish from jumping over. This is sunk upright 
in the river and kept vertical by means of weights, called 
manda, formed of large lumps of hard ant-heap covered with 
grass. Men wade along in the river pushing this mat in 
front of them, and gradually edge in towards the bank, 
enclosing a number of fish, which are -then scooped out. 
Before they start pushing thelwando, the fish-doctor, carrying 
a potful of " medicine," steps into the water in front of 


1 62 



the mat — mu chidimha they call it — fills his mouth with 
" medicine " and spits it round about ; he then offers a prayer : 
" Twakahomha ! Uchibosha Leza watuahila hachiwena inswi 
shinjishinji ! " (" We are humble before Thee. Make good, O 
Leza, and give to us crocodiles and many fish "), It happens 



&. " 

ifl^r I'u^t^T'' r/WFlm^mM^mm 






'Jf^vJF/- Tt^l M w BK 

«l\\ vk^^^V 




Photo E. IV. Smilh. 

The Ivhumbo Fish-trap. 

sometimes, of course, that in pushing the Iwando they 
enclose a crocodile ; this causes great excitement and pro- 
vides great sport ; it is looked upon as a good omen for 
the fishing, as they believe that where a crocodile is there 
also are many -fish. 

Fish-traps are employed largely by the Ba-ila. The 




ivhumho (or izhizhi) is in the form of a conical basket, 
made of light sticks and bark-string. In using these, people 

Thk Mono Fish-trai*. 

wade into pools and shallow water and place them over fish. 
The fish are removed by hand out from the apex of the trap. 
A more elaborate trap is the mono, shaped similarly to 
the ivhumho, but more elongated and with an inside trap- 
door called hiivhwazhi. 

K A F U E R I \/ E P 


J ^s^-^; y.i, /o Holes for 
■■■■... '^^ ■'^•1/7 o caught fish 


The fish entering the 
wide open end find them- 
selves unable to get out 
again. The miono are 
arranged in numbers at 
the confluence of the 
Kafue and one of the 
lagoons. The plan and 
photographs will show 
the arrangement. This 
form of weir is called 
mielo. The fish which 
get into the reed -mat 
enclosure, the doors of 
which are left open for 
a time, are scooped out 
with nets or speared ; 
from the traps they are 
taken out by hand. As 
they are taken out they 

are tied together by the gills into bundles and thrown into 
small pools dug out in the bank, and so kept fresh until 
required by the curers at work near by. We have watched 
many thousands of fish being taken out of such a place and 
cut up and dried on the bank. 

The net used by the Ba-ila is a prawn net called Iwanga — 

Plan of the Mielo Weir. 




the generic name is lutele — the framework consisting of a 
long forked stick bent into a rough oval shape. Two of 
these are seen lying on the miono in the photograph (p. 166). 
On the Nanzela River another form of weir is con- 
structed at the time of the rise and overflow of the river. 
As it rises the water flows into the watercourses running 
across the flats, which during the dry season are empty. 
The people make long mats of reeds [masasa) and fix them 
across a watercourse so that the fish attempting to regain 

P/toto E. IV. Smith. 

Pkepaking for the Fishing. 
Making the /sasr. 

the river are caught. The mats are kept in position by 
means of stakes driven into the ground. They are arranged 
in a V-shape pointing towards the river ; at the apex an 
open space is left between them, and another mat is placed 
around the opening in the position shown in the plan. The 
two enclosures thus formed are named manda (" houses"), 
and in them the fish are held. The fishers enter the water 
above the mat and prod about with their spears, impaling 
what fish they can. They also spear the fish in the manda. 
Some of them lean over and catch the imprisoned fish in 
their hands, but this is at the risk of seizing a nasty little 




fish called shichokochoko {Synodontis macrostigma, Blge.), 
which shoots out a sharp spike on its back and causes a 
painful wound. In a few hours hundreds of fish of all kinds 
are caught. This method is named kukosola chimpinda. 

Farther down the river is a break in the bank, through 
which when the water rises it pours in a swift flood. There 
is no definite watercourse at this point, but the water 
spreads out over the low-lying ground. Great quantities 

r/iofo li. II'. SmitJi. 

The Mielo in Position (Nearer View). 

of fish are carried in this flood ; the men simply walk about 
in the shallow water and spear them. 

Lastly, we may mention the fish-poisons scattered in 
the pools in winter and spring ; these are made by pounding 
up certain wild bulbs, tinde and kanyangalakata, and the 
bark of the chiwezeze. We have never seen this operation, 
but are told that it is very efficacious, the poison making 
the fish senseless ; they say it especially affects the eyes 
of the fish, causing them to burst. This method of fishing 
is named kutwila. 

Fish not required for immediate consumption are dried, 




either in the sun or over fires. They are spht lengthwise, 
heads and tails are not removed, but the insides are taken 

c ,-■ 

A.A. The Manda 
C.C, Supporting posts 

Dotted lines show the mats 

Plan of the Weik : Kukosola Chimpixd^. 

out. The natives not only consume great quantities of this 
dried fish themselves, but trade with it among the people 
living away from the river. 

3. Some Hunting and Fishing Customs 

We have never had the opportunity of watching the 
cutting up of an elephant, but, sitting once in company 
with some old Nanzela hunters, we asked and obtained the 
following description of the process. The motive under- 
lying the rites is to prevent the ghost of the deceased 
elephant from taking vengeance upon the hunters, and 
to induce it to assist them in bringing the same fate 
upon other elephants. When the elephant is dead the 
hunter runs off and is chased in mock resentment by 
his companions. Then he comes back and climbs upon 
the carcase, bearing " medicine " which, after chewing, 
he ejects into the wound and anus ; in doing this he 
crawls about over the body. He then stands up and 
executes a dance upon the carcase, his companions 
surrounding the elephant and clapping their hands in 
greeting and congratulation. They then proceed to cut 


up the carcase. A beginning is made by cutting out the 
fat in the hollows of the temples : from its quantity and 
quality they judge the condition of the animal. They then 
open the abdomen and remove the intestines. The linings 
of the cavity are carefully separated and spread out to dry ; 
they are called ingubo {" blankets "), and are intended for 
presentation to the bodi, the ladies of the community. They 
then cut through the diaphragm : through the opening 
the hunter puts his head, seizes the heart in his mouth, and 
drags it out. He does not eat it, but the biting is to give 
him strength in future hunting. Having removed the 
contents of the thorax, they attack the head. There is 
some special significance attached to the nerve of the tusk, 
called kamwale {" the maiden "). It is carefully abstracted 
and buried under the site of the camp-fire. It is not to be 
looked upon by the tiros in hunting — they are called bana 
(" children ") ; all the time it is being handled they must 
turn away their heads, for were they to see it they would 
meet with misfortune. Having now completed their work, 
they return to the village, beating their axes together and 
singing. The people on hearing the noise flock to meet them, 
and a great feast, with plenty of beer, is made. But first 
an offering is made to Leza (" the Supreme Being"), to the 
mizhimo {" the ancestral spirits "), and to the ghost [muzhimo) 
of the deceased elephant which has accompanied them to 
the village. Addressing this last they say : " O spirit, have 
you no brothers and fathers who will come to be killed ? 
Go and fetch them." The ghost of the elephant then 
returns and joins the herd as the guardian of the elephant 
who has " eaten its name." Observe that they regard the 
elephants as acting as men act : one dies and another 
inherits his position, " eats his name," as they say. 

Before a man can be admitted into the brotherhood of 
elephant hunters he must undergo a process of being 
doctored. Gashes are cut in his right arm and " medicine " 
is rubbed in to give him pluck ; and other " medicines " 
are administered to enable him to approach his quarry 
without being seen. 

As we shall see later, there are certain taboos put on the 
hunters and fishermen ; here we may describe what takes 


place at the Iwando fishing. The men leave the villages and 
encamp on the river-bank, and until the fishing is over 
they are forbidden to have commerce with their wives or 
other women. If in the midst of the fishing a man should 
return home to take a bundle of fresh fish and should break 
this rule, the effect would at once be seen, for the next time 
the Iwando was pushed along there would be no fish taken. 
When this happens they say, " Umwi waleta masoto ku 
Iwando " (" Some one has brought a (sexual) transgression 
to the Iwando"). The diviner is called in to detect the 
wrongdoer and he is driven away. " Medicine " is then 
brought to cleanse the Iwando, and if all is well the next 
pushing gives a good catch. 



The conditions of life amidst which the Ba-ila existed until 
the close of last century — a life in which the elders were 
perpetually either on the defensive or offensive — naturally 
famiUarised them at an early age with the idea of warfare. 
These ideas, however, differ very widely from those of 
our own race. When their attacks consisted largely of 
ambuscades and surprises, and their defence in precipitate 
flight, it would be unreasonable to expect or seek for the 
true fighting spirit. The dogged, straightforward methods 
of fighting which we prize so highly are not to be found 
amongst the Ba-ila, who do not profess to understand them, 
but on the contrary fully appreciate and follow the maxim 
that he who fights and runs away may live to fight another 
day. To die in the last ditch would appear to almost all of 
them the height of folly. They themselves hold the view, 
and act upon it, that courage is shown, or a man's heart is 
strong, as they put it, under certain circumstances only. 
The brave on land may be a coward on the water. The 
man who will charge boldly close up to a lion may shrink 
from the same action towards his fellow-man or an angry 
buffalo. This view is easily comprehended. The European 
seeks to habituate his mind to the idea of death in any form, 
and to school himself to face it boldly. To the native the 
thought of it is dreadful, and though, as we have shown, 
they are not devoid of courage of a high order, certain 
conditions to which they are accustomed are necessary to 
enable them to show it, and the native face- to face with 
peril to which he is not accustomed loses heart immediately. 





The youngsters become quickly familiar with the sight 
of mimic fights and the constant kwenzha-ing they see at 

P/ti'/o E. 11: Smith. 

Ba-ila Wakkioks. 

every festival or funeral stimulates them to try and show 
off their agility and speed in imitating the actions of their 
elders. Kukwenzha is the term applied to imitative acts 
of charging, casting the spear and dodging those of the 




enemy which take place on every occasion of importance 
when people are gathered before whom the young men may 
show off. 

The mimic fights we have often seen, and they form a 
most realistic spectacle. As many as four hundred young 
men face each other, armed with reeds or spear-shafts, and 
arrayed as we have already described on p. io6. While the 
drums boom the notes of the war-dance, the men work 

Photo G. H. Nicholls. 

A Mimic Fight. 

themselves up by shouts, shrieks, whistlings, and lululuings, 
which last when used by women mean welcome but by men 
defiance. On the signal, the two ranks charge, and the air 
is dark with darts ; they retreat and gather fresh missiles — 
those thrown by their opponents. Again they rush forward, 
and as they retreat a form is seen lying on the ground 
twisting in agony with a spear apparently through his body. 
The one side rush forward to " mak siccar," his friends to 
save and drag him away. The two sides seem about to 




close, but their spear is no thrusting weapon, and the supply 
runs short ; the attack is relinquished, and the wounded 
man seized and hastily dragged to the rear. Should the 
efforts of his friends be vain, a man imitates the action of 
hacking off his head with a blunt battle-axe to take as a 
trophy, the while rolling his eyes, bloodshot from excitement, 
from side to side, on the alert for an attempt at rescue. 
The whole spectacle is most realistic ; the writhings of the 
apparently injured man are so life-like that the European 

Photo G. H. Nicholls. 

A Mimic Fight : Hurling the Spears. 

spectator is impelled to rush forward to his aid, quickly to 
sink back into his seat amidst the laughter of the native 
spectators around him. The actors have without doubt 
often taken part in the real thing. 

In addition to the practice afforded by these mimic 
fights, the youths gained valuable experience in marching and 
scouting by accompanying their elders on makodi {" raids "). 
When anxious for a little diversion, two or three comrades 
would start off through the bush, and some days' march 
away would lie in wait on a path until some women and 




children came along. These they would seize as slaves, 
ensuring silence by blows and threats, and drive them 
through the veld to their homes. The danger of successful 
pursuit was very slight as the start gained before the captives 
were missed was too considerable. Should an armed man, 
or men, come along, to the shame of the Ba-ila it must be 
said that he, or they, were usually stabbed in the back. 

Photo G. H. NichoUs. 

A Mimic Fight : The Charge. 

Many men are alive to-day who gained great renown through 
these raids. 

As the following story will show, the odds were not 
always with the big battalions. A certain man left a kraal 
accompanying his mistress. He was seen by some one, who 
said, " Let us follow and kill him." As they drew near 
him in the fiat the woman said, " There are people coming." 
The man entered a copse and cut a staff, another he obtained 
from an ant-heap, because he had no spears, only an axe. 

CH. VilJ 


In the meantime two of the pursuers seized the woman, 
and the others addressed them, saying, " Why do you seize 
the woman ? It is not she we came out to slay." The 
man thereupon emerged full speed out of the copse and 
charged them as they were grouped together. He threw 
his staff, and they derided him, saying, " Truly he mocks 
himself to-day." Again he struck, hitting a man, who fell 
down. He seized his spears and chased the others, killing 

Photo G. H. Nicholls. 

A Mimic Fight : Spearing the Earth at the End of a Charge. 

five of them and recovering his mistress, after which he 
left them alone. 

It remains to describe the methods pursued in warfare. 
Strangely though it may appear after the instances of 
treachery we have given, the Ba-ila displayed certain sport- 
ing, if not chivalrous, instincts preparatory to their biggest 
fights. Frequently a formal challenge was sent, and, if 
accepted, an arrangement was made to fight on a given day 
at a certain spot. Since the advent of the British adminis- 
tration application has more than once been made to the 
officials by antagonistic villages for " one day's, just one 




day's " encounter on the flats. On other occasions the 
challengers would pass in battle array outside and some 
distance from the kraal of their opponents, in order, so it 
was explained, not to disturb the domestic life of the village. 
Before the actual fighting certain ceremonial observances 
took place, the principal being a solemn sacrifice to the 

Photo G. H. Nicholls. 

A Mimic Fight : A Group of admiring Female Spectators. 

muzhimo of the district, with prayers for victory and a safe 
return. All sexual intercourse was avoided, and the women 
were instructed to remain chaste while their husbands were 
away fighting, lest harm should befall them. They were 
also forbidden to throw anything at one another for fear lest 
their relations should be speared, or to imitate any kind of 
blow. They were also forbidden to dance, the period until 




the safe return of the warriors was assured being one rather 
for mourning than for rejoicing. The fighting men looked 
to their weapons, arrayed themselves as we have described 
already, and smeared themselves with ash and white earth. 
As each man advanced to the fight he chewed " medicine " 
to render himself invisible. 

When opposed to their fellow-Ba-ila the method was 

Photo G. H. Mcl-.oll':. 

Returning from the Fight. 

fairly straightforward. Charge and counter - charge as 
described in the paragraph on mimic fights followed in quick 
succession. No quarter was given, and each enemy, whether 
already dead or not, was promptly beheaded, the skull being 
taken home and exhibited as a trophy at the kraal. The 
testicles were cut off, and afterwards added to a relish 
[chidisho) and eaten. If eaten by a coward he would at 
once vomit, but a brave warrior would have his heart 





Intertribal fights lasted a long time, each party gathering 
the spears thrown by their opponents. If it was desired 
by one side quickly to bring the matter to an end by a sharp 
decisive combat, the shafts of the spears were half sawn 
through and thus broke on descending. 

It is obvious that against the Matabele with their short 
stabbing spears and the kerrie-armed Barotsi, who all carried 
war shields, the Mwila was entirely helpless when his supply 
of light casting-spears was exhausted. It is comical to 
observe the chagrin and disgust with which a Mwila will 
describe some old fight and tell how, all the spears having 
been caught on the hide shields, thwack would descend a 
kerrie on some defenceless head. 

Many chiefs placed " medicine " all around their district 
for the discomfiture of attacking parties, and other "medicine " 
was placed on old trees so that the knees of the enemy might 
weaken and the defenders overtake and slay them. 

On returning from a successful fight great rejoicings took 
place at the kraal. Each warrior bathed his face in a brew 
of " medicine," and each father sacrificed individually to his 
ancestral spirit. The first sacrifice was made to the demi-god 
of the district ; the heads of the slain enemies were placed 
before him with a prayer of thanksgiving : " Thou hast 
stood by us. We are not dead but alive, and have slain 
our enemies by thy help. See here are the heads of our 
foes." The chief slaughtered oxen with which to feast his 
warriors. We are acquainted with two young men who, 
afraid to engage with the enemy, hid their spears in the 
mud of a pond, and were held up to the derision of the kraal 
by being refused any part in the feast. 

Among the Balumbu similar customs were in vogue. 
The testicles of a slain foe were cut off, and, we under- 
stand, thrown away, the motive being that as the testicles 
are humi, i.e. the life, the cutting of them off meant killing 
the man utterly. After a fight the warriors returned to 
the chief's village carrying the heads of the slain enemies. 
Next morning the drums beat hukadi, the warriors turned 
out, and the chief distributed honours. As each man's 
name was called he sprang out into the open and executed 
a kind of Salome dance with the head or heads he had 

cH.vm * WARFARE 179 

brought home. This is called kufumha. Then he knelt 
down and placed his trophy before the chief. The chief 
retained some of the heads and distributed others, together 
with induba feathers, to the bravest warriors. He who 
brought no trophy did not fumha, nor he who had only 
killed a boy or woman. The heads retained by the chief 
were stored in the manes' hut, and on great occasions were 
brought out and the warriors fumha' d with them. Often 
the heads were chopped round above the ears and the 
calvaria used as goblets. This is kupampa. The warriors 
had to be cleansed. The doctor went round to the 
slayers and put a little " medicine " on each man's tongue, 
atamukodi uyayiwa (" that the person slain might not 
trouble him"). Another cleansing process is called kupti- 
pidula. The warrior was bathed in the fumes of certain 
medicines burnt in a sherd : the ashes were afterwards 
placed in a koodoo horn and planted at the threshold of his 
hut to drive off the ghost of the person he had killed. 



The handicrafts of the Ba-ila are restricted, to some extent 
by the paucity of the materials at their disposal, but more 
by their lack of enterprise and skill. There are materials, 
such as cotton, which they do not know how to use, but 
which either grow wild or might easily be cultivated. The 
industries may be grouped under the categories of the 
materials employed : animal stuffs such as ivory and skins ; 
vegetable such as wood, grass, and bark ; and mineral such 
as clay and iron. Another classification is according to 
whether the industry is professional, such as ivory-turning, 
iron-smelting, and smithery ; or whether it is domestic, such 
as pottery and basketry. 

I. Work in Ivory 

This is a trade severely restricted to a few individuals 
by the cost and scarcity of the raw material, and by the 
amount of skill required. We have seen fine pieces of work, 
such as fly-whisk handles and knife-shafts, wrought by men 
of neighbouring tribes, but the only articles made of ivory 
by the Ba-ila are bangles [inkaya). These are turned 
(kucheka) on a lathe from a section of elephant tusk. The 
lathe is of rude construction, but the quality of the work 
done is excellent. The tusks are bought from hunters and 
are valued in cattle ; a tusk of about twenty pounds weight 
being priced at about five cows, say £i^. The form of the 
lathe is shown in the sketch and photograph. The frame- 
work consists of two pieces of hard wood 2 feet 6 inches long, 





3 inches thick, and 2 inches wide ; towards each end 
these are perforated for the cross-pieces (B, B), which are 
inserted and kept tight by means of wedges. Midway 
along the length of the pieces A, A, there are two angle-irons 
(D, D), the shorter side being inserted into the frame and 
the longer jutting out into the centre of the framework. 

Photo 1-. jr. Smith. 

The Ivoky-tuknek. 

The ends of these, which oppose each other, are pointed. 
These form the poppets of the lathe. They are inserted 
into the block of wood (E) which carries the cylinder of 
ivory (F). Around this block on the turner's right hand is 
passed the leather thong of the bow (G) by means of which 
the block is rotated ; immediately in front is the tool-rest 
(H), a bar of wood secured by pegs to the framework. 




In beginning his work on a piece of solid ivory, the 
turner bores a small hole at each end, into which the points 

of the poppets (D, D) 









are inserted. Before 
doing so he must, by 
knocking out the 
wedges (C, C) and the 
pegs in the tool-rest, 
separate the sides of 
the lathe ; having 
adjusted the block of 
ivory, he replaces the 
wedges and makes all 
fast. Then, squatting 
on the ground, he 
clutches the bow in 
his right hand and 
holds a tool with his 
left ; to secure it in position he places his foot upon the 
rest with the tool under his big toe. ' Then he works the 

The first operation in turning a bangle is to cut out the 
core of the block of ivory, leaving a hollow cylinder. This 
is then secured on the block of wood (E), which, of course, 
was not required while he was cutting the solid block. He 
then cuts the ivory through of the width required, and at 
the same time turns the mongo, the raised " backbone " on 
the bangle. The tools used are a hammer and variously 
shaped miengo {" carving tools "). The latter include cutters 
and a kind of hooked tool — simply a piece of iron bent 
round at the end — used as a gouge, all of them mounted 
in wooden handles. The cutters are of different sizes with 
variously bevelled edges. 

As with other trades, ivory-turning is regarded by the 
Ba-ila not so much as a matter of talent as of " medicine." 
The man procures medicine to give him skill, and periodically 
has to wash his face in a certain decoction to keep his eyes 
sharp, so that he may not run his chisels awry. It was a 
source of immense amusement to the turner and onlookers 
when one of us tried his hand at the lathe. Seeing that 


we had no " medicine," how could we expect to manipulate 
the lathe and tools ? 

2. Skin-dressing 

The Ba-ila are ignorant of the art of tanning ; nor are 
they as expert as the Barotsi and Bechuana in dressing and 
sewing skins. In this work the cleverest hands are among 
the Balumbu, who have been influenced from the west. 
The skins of animals are the most natural things for use 
as clothing,_ and the preparation of them consists simply 
in making them as soft and flexible as possible. Heavy 
hides, such as those of cattle, zebra, and the largest antelope, 
are not so easy to work, and are therefore not so much used 
as the skins of smaller antelope. The lechwe skin, for its 
size, softness, and beauty, is the one preferred for the 
women's dress ; lion and leopard skins, and those of the 
smaller carnivora, as well as those of other smaller animals, 
are all employed for dress or ornament. 

The process is a simple one. The fresh skin is pegged 
down on the ground and all particles of flesh are removed. 
It is afterwards scraped with a knife or spear-blade {kuzwa- 
buluzha) , rubbed with a stone or lump of ant-heap [kumwaila) , 
and finally worked between the hands {kusuka), with or 
without fat, until it is as soft as kid. Holes made by the 
spear in killing or skinning the animal are sewn up or 
patched by means of thread made from fibrous plants or 
fine sinews, those of the duiker, eland, roan, and hartebeest 
in particular. Except at Nanzela, no attempt is made at 
sewing skins into karosses. 

3. Strings 

Twine for all purposes is made from various fibres 
without any mechanical aid, simply by rolling or twisting 
between the hands or on the thigh. The action is called 
knpesa. To make a three-ply cord is kulundulula. A 
coarse thread for sewing is sometimes made in this way 
from wild cotton, but the arts of spinning and weaving 
are not known. 




Two varieties of a fibrous plant named mukusa are much 
used for making string. One variety, mukusa-mpumpa, 
grows in the mopani forest in the form of spikes one or two 

I. Kunutim. 

2. Reef-knot. 

3. Slip-knot {Inkosoive). 

4. Used in tlie hiisamhn, etc. 

5. Netting-knot. 6. Noose [Bufwizu). 

Knots used by the Ba-ila. 

feet high : the spike is torn into strips, which are used 
without further manipulation to tie up bundles. From the 
other variety, named mukusa-matwi , which has flat fleshy 
leaves with hard edges, an excellent thin twine is made by 
beating the leaves to remove the pulp and rolling the fibres, 




which are about twelve inches long, on the thigh, other 
fibres being added to make the length. The two-ply twine 
thus made is used in sewing, especially in sewing the head- 
dress ; a three-ply twine is also made. The fibre from the 
plant called lukukwa is also used in this way. 

The inner bark of many trees is used for binding purposes, 
especially in building, the best being from the mozha, 
mushiwe, mubombo, mtitondo, and niunga trees. The bark is 
ripped off in large sections, beaten with sticks to separate 

r/iolo E. ir. Smith, 

Making a Net. 

the outer from the inner layers, and the latter is then cut 
into long strips, tied end to end, and used moist. The inner 
fibrous bark of the baobab {mukuzu) is also made into 
string and used for sewing skins. 

Of all plants the palm provides the Ba-ila with their 
most useful materials. There are three palms that grow 
in their country : the stately borassus {kalala-ngvhuma) , 
the hyphoene [kalala ka mankomona), and the raphia 
{mansene). Chisakabale is the name given to the borassus 
and hyphoene when the leaves and nothing, or only a very 
small part, of the trunk are above ground. Its large 
fan-like leaves, formed of foUioles radiating from a centre. 




provide useful fibre. The strong and flexible midrib {mongo) 
of the follicle is much used in making baskets. The rest 
of the follicle is split into strips and called lubale. They 
also are used in basketry ; and by chewing them to make 
them soft and then rolling them on the thigh a useful cord 
is produced. 

P/w/o E. ir. Smith. 

Basketry : Base of the Intumba. 

(Reduced about one-third.) 

The knots used by the Ba-ila call for no description 
beyond the illustrations given. 

The strong nets for fishing are made of mukusa twine. 
The knot employed is the same as in England. The 
operator sits as shown in the picture, and works on a cord 
stretched between his two big toes. He uses no gauge, but 
regulates by eye the size of the mesh. 




4. Basketry 

The Ba-ila have four kinds of basket-work, two of a 
coiled pattern, and two twilled and twined. The first three 
are made by women, the fourth by men. 

Photo E. ir. Smith. 


I. The intumha is made of luhale coiled on a foundation 
of about ten strands of a fine tough grass called mankuntu. 
The sewing is done with a needle about 3^^ inches long, 
with a large oval eye. The woman starts by tying three or 
four strands of lubale into a knot, and then, passing her 




needle through this base, begins to introduce the grass. 
She continues over-sewing, passing her needle through the 
luhale in the lower coil from the inside outwards. The 
base is some 4 or 5 inches in diameter, and from it the 
basket slopes upwards and outwards, growing gradually in 
circumference. These baskets are of various sizes, but are 
of a uniform shape ; no attempt is made at fancy-work, 
such as lids and handles. This kind will hold water. 

Photo E. IF. Smith. 

Woman making an Intundu Basket : Laying out the Base. 

2. The chimb alamashasha is a coiled basket very similar 
to the intumba, the only difference being that whereas in 
the intumba the luhale is coiled evenly in every row, in this 
pattern it is spaced alternately in each row, showing the 
grass foundation beneath ; this is done by sewing first 
through the lubale on the lower row and on the next through 
the grass. This pattern is much inferior in strength to the 

3. The intundu is the basket par excellence of the Ba-ila, 
and is made wholly of lubale. The warp and weft elements 


of the base, each consisting of four or five narrow strips of 

Photo E. W. Smith. 

Woman making an Intundu Basket. 

the midrib of the palm-leaf, are laid out on the ground ; 
they are twilled, the weft passing over and then under the 




warp. There being four to eight of warp and the same number 
of weft elements they make a square base ; around which 
by means of a buttonhole stitch the operator sews a border 
to hold all in place. The long strands that jut beyond this 
border are then bent upwards to form the warp of the sides. 
The weft is made up of two thinner strips of luhale, one 
being passed behind and the other in front of two (after six 
or seven rows, one only) of the warp strands. The base is, 

Photo E. If. Smith. 

Making a Chizongo Basket (First Stage). 

then, what is technically called twilled, and the sides twined 
work. As the sides progress, other strands are worked into 
the warp to fill up the angles. By the time it is finished, 
the basket has become circular in shape. A rough triangle 
and lozenge pattern is made on the sides by passing the weft 
over two of the warp-strands instead of over one. The 
basket is finished off by binding along the edge a withe 
surmounted by two or three strands of the palm-leaf midrib. 
These baskets, when well made, are strong and pretty. 

4. The chizongo is a basket with open-work sides used 
for carrying potatoes, fish, etc. Unlike the others, this 
basket is made by men. In structure it is similar to that 
of the intundu, but the warp is made of reeds. Strips of 




reed are twilled on the ground to make a base : to do this 
reeds are slit down one side and flattened out. After 
binding round the base, the operator sphts each reed into 
four pieces, bends them upright, and twines luhale in and 
out, leaving spaces between the strips of reed. 

Besides these baskets they make flatfish round trays, 
called liikwi, for winnowing. The funnel of the calabash 

Photo E. ly. Stnith. 

Making a Chizongo Basket. 

churn is also made of basket-work. In both cases the style 
is that used in the intumha. 

5. Working in Clay 

In most villages of any size there are women who can 
make pots, and some of them are adepts in the art. They 
know nothing about pottery wheels, but are able by hand 
to make very neat, symmetrical, and serviceable pots. 
Pot-clay {muntanango) is found in most places. The woman 
prepares the clay by kneading it well, and to increase its 
strength she grinds up old potsherds and adds the powder 
to the clay. She takes a stone, or a flat lump of ant-heap. 




as a base, and sits down with it between her knees. She 
then breaks off a lump of clay and shapes it into a ring 

Photo E. 11: Smith. 

Pot-making (First Stage). 

about 2 inches thick and of a circumference according to 
the size of the pot desired. This is placed on the base and 
four or five other rings are built up one upon the other. 




The woman then takes a meahe cob or a piece of wood or 
bone, and, holding it in one hand, draws and scrapes the 

Photo E. IF. Smith. 

Pot-making (Later Stage). 

clay upwards, gradually thinning out the wall ; with the 

left hand she supports and moulds into shape the other 

side of the wall. In this way the body is made. When 

VOL. T o 




she comes to the neck, she adds more clay and shapes it. 
The pot is now in the rough, except for the bottom ; she 
then sprinkles it with water and smooths the surface. 
This done, she wraps a piece of moist cloth round the base 
and leaves it in the shade to dry. In two days or so it is 
sufficiently dry to be handled, and then, taking away the 
cloth, she inverts the pot and draws in the clay of the sides 
so as to fill up the space left. This done, she moulds the 
bottom, making a slight indentation with her thumb in the 

l:'^;H.r,^..~ ^.^,^-- 

^^M ' ?■' 

w > .-iz 

Photo E. JF. Smith. 

Preparing to bake the Pots. 

centre to assist the pot in standing upright. Lastly, she 
spends time in indenting patterns around the neck by means 
of her thumb-nail and a bit of bone or stick. The pot is 
now set aside to dry. 

When perfectly dry the pots are burnt. A hole is dug 
and the pots carefully piled and covered with strips of dry 
bark. One short burning is sufficient. As a finishing touch 
some of the white ash is rubbed over the patterns around 
the neck. We have never seen any one who knew how to 
glaze her pots. In general pattern Ba-ila pots do not vary 
much : the difference is in dimensions and in the size of the 




mouth. There are large beer-pots set up in the huts holding 
several gallons — these are scarce, as making and burning 
require no small amount of skill : one may see them repaired 
by sewing — and all sizes down to the small dishes for eating 
from, all on the same general style. In naming their pots 
the Ba-ila describe functions ; the same pot may have 
different names according to the use to which it is being 
put at the time. The large, narrow-necked pot for carrying 
water is called intesho (i) ; the same when larger and used 

fhoio E. II'. Sinith. 

Ba-ila Pots. 

for holding beer is called Halo (2) . A small wide-mouthed pot 
used for cooking vegetables is called munkomha (3) ; a 
larger one for porridge is ibia. The same pot if used for 
beer is called chipempa (4). Other small pots to contain 
cooked food are called cJiihia chitentu (5). A smaller pot, 
like a dish, used to serve up meat and vegetables is called 
lusulu. The generic name is chihia. 

The earthenware pipe-bowls made by the Ba-ila potters 
— men in this case, not women — are the prettiest articles 
of their manufacture. They are decorated with moulded 
heads of various animals, hippopotami, buffaloes, eland. 


etc. ; the forelegs of the animals form a stand on which the 
pipe rests on the ground. The bowl itself is scored with 
lines, cross-hatched, as shown in the photos. The potter 
spends much time and patience in making them. The 
bowls are mounted on a special kind of reed, 3 feet or 
so long, ornamented with wirework, 

6. Woodwork 

The Ba-ila are not skilful in working wood. Here and 
there one finds an adept, but most of the wooden utensils, 
drums, canoes, stools, bowls used by them are made by 

Photo E. W. Smith. 


Barotsi and Mankoya workmen, parties of two or three of 
whom occasionally go through the country from village to 
village making and selling what is required. 

Excellent timber grows in the country, especially in the 
northern districts. Certain kinds are adapted for special 
purposes. The mopani [mwani) is the best of all for building 
purposes, especially when cut in the wet season and soaked 
in water for some weeks, for it then becomes hard and 
almost proof against the ravages of the termite and borer 
insect. The great thorn tree [ihunga) has a soft wood, and 
is much used for canoes. Mukushi, mulombe, and muluhu- 
lulwa are all soft woods, much used for mortars, drums, and 
stools, the mulombe in particular, a light, open-grained 
timber with a dark heart, being excellent for the purpose. 




Two dark hardwoods, muse and mwangula, are used for 
walking-sticks and spear -shafts. The handsome ihula 
provides an admirable timber for many purposes. The 

r/wto E. ly. Smith. 

Ba-ila Pipes and Pipe-heads. 

muntuntumba is much used for making drums. The 
mutondo is used especially for axe-shafts. And there are 
many others. 

The native workmen have no sense of joinery: they 
use neither nails nor pegs, nor mortise and tenon in their 




work. The only way they have of joining one piece of wood 
to another is by means of stitching. Thus, if a tree of 
sufficient length for a canoe is not procurable they may 
make it in two sections fitting end-wise. Holes are then 
burnt through the wood by means of a hot iron, and tough 
cord threaded through and drawn tight to complete the 
joint. And if the gunwale is too low, a strip of wood may 
be stitched along its edge to heighten it. Otherwise, all 


Photo E. ir. Siiiith. 

Making an Indandala Drum. 

they make is cut out of solid blocks of timber. As may be 
gathered from some of the objects illustrated, this entails 
a vast amount of patient and laborious toil. The tools 
used are axes, chisels, adzes, and spear-blades. With these 
they hollow logs of wood into cylinders of various shapes 
and dimensions and convert them into drums of different 
kinds (see Chap. XXV.). They also hollow out mortars for 
stamping grain, and milk-pails, carving the bases into 
various forms. They also carve dishes and bowls {mitiba), 
often with close-fitting lids. The stools (shuna) and wooden 
pillows are of many forms, and a clever workman takes 


great pains in making them objects of beauty as well as of 

I-'hoto /i. ir. Sinilh 

Specimens ok Woodwork from Nanzela. 

Photo B. IV. Smith. 


use. Perhaps the most artistic of these wooden utensils 




are the spoons. Our old friend Mungalo was an adept at 
the work, and with the simplest of tools — an adze, two or 
three small chisels, and a spear-blade — would carve them 
by the score out of unpromising-looking bits of wood. The 
handle is surmounted by some figure — a human or animal 

The largest objects made of wood are the canoes (mato). 
The size depends, of course, on the tree chosen, and that 
depends largely upon the purpose of the prospective owner. 

r/wio E. jr. Smith. 

Ba-ila Stools. 

Whether for a long, narrow, hunting canoe or a broader 
canoe for carrying purposes, a tree of corresponding size is 
chosen after some search, and anxious consultation. It 
perhaps entails a long bargaining if the tree is owned by 
another person, certainly a quarrel if it is taken without 
the owner's permission. The tree is felled, cleaned of its 
boughs, cut into the length required, and then the work- 
men with their axes proceed to rough-hew it into shape. 
When the outside is shaped to their satisfaction they hollow 
out the interior. The sides are an inch or so thick at the 
gunwale, thicker towards the bottom. The canoes are 




destitute of keels, rudders, thwarts, and rowlocks. They 
draw but little water. Some are so narrow that it is 
impossible to sit down in them. Others have a beam of 
2 or 2 1 feet. The large canoes will carry ten people, the 
smallest only two. Often when loaded there is a freeboard 
of only a couple of inches, and it is no unusual thing for a 
sudden lurch to fill the canoe with water and sink it under 
the occupants. The canoes are propelled by means of 
paddles {inkashi) about 7 or 8 feet long, shaped out of a solid 

J'/'io/o /y. Kyait. 

Canoe-making :' Shaping the Trunk. 

piece of wood, and terminating in a blade, heart-shaped, 
9 inches by 5, or oblong. A nicely-made paddle is a precious 
object : if the blade is 5 inches wide it means, of course, 
that it has to be shaped out of a log that width, and perhaps 
8 feet long. 

The ornamentation of woodwork, earthenware, and iron 
objects is not at all elaborate, few and simple designs being 
used. Around long things such as spear-shafts, the tangs 
of axes, and the handles of spoons, they incise series of 
parallel rings, and perhaps round off the angles. On the 
flat surfaces of stools, etc., they often execute a black 


and white diamond pattern. Tlie wood is first charred 
to make it black and then white diamonds are cut out. 
On pots and wooden utensils a series of triangles is drawn, 
enclosed within a border of parallel lines : the triangles are 
all scored across by oblique lines running alternately in 
opposite directions. Or irregular spaces are marked out 
with containing lines and the interior filled with cross-hatch- 
ing. Terminals are ornamented with human or animal 
heads or other objects, carved or moulded. Sometimes to 

PIu'lo ]1. Ryu II. 

Canoe-making : the Joh complete. 

amuse his friends or himself a man will carve a human figure 
out of a piece of wood. 

7. Ironwork : {a) Smelting 

Iron-ore is not found within the limits of Bwila, strictly 
speaking, and a large proportion of the iron used is imported 
from Bunduwe (Butotela) country, the people of which are 
famed for their ironwork. The Bambala, especially in the 
hills around Shanaobi, smelt iron for local consumption 
and trade with their neighbours, and we will describe the 
process as carried on there. 


The principal figure in the industry is the munganga 
wa hutale (" the iron doctor "), who is also called chibinda, a 
word which seems to mean " maker." His is a rare pro- 
fession. Its secrets are jealously guarded and handed down 
from father to son. It is largely a matter of knowing the 
different kinds of niisamo (" medicines ") ; how far the doctor 
is credulous we cannot say, but the people beheve it would 
be impossible to extract the iron without the " medicines." 
" Misamo yasandiizha lubwe tube butale," they say ("The 
medicines transform the ore into iron "). 

The industry is not carried on all the year round, but 
only in the spring. In the winter the men of the villages 
make preparations by cutting down the trees from which 
the charcoal is to be made. The trees used are the mabanga 
and mikoso, because of their good burning quahties. 

When the time appointed arrives the doctor is sum- 
moned, and comes with his medicines and paraphernalia. 
On his arrival he takes charge of the proceedings. A 
company of men is sent out to dig the ironstone on the 
hill -sides. They quarry [kupwaya) the stone, digging it 
out with strong, heavy axes turned in the handle [kusakila 
twemhe) to form picks. The stones are then broken up into 
small pieces {kusansaula) . This done, they weave strong 
receptacles {bisangadi, shisekelele) , and carry the stone off 
to the village. 

Beer is made in considerable quantities, and when it is 
consumed they commence the smelting operations. Some 
go to draw water ; others seek an ant-hill with good strong 
clay for moulding. They build there a long temporary 
shelter {chilao) in which to Hve while the work is going on. 
The camp is generally arranged in a certain order thus : 





a. Ant-hill. 

b. Shelter. 
I. Doctor's quarters. 

^^'■^^ ^ ^ ^ ^^'"^ 2. His " wife's " quarters. 

3. The men's quarters. 


c c c c 


c. Kilns. 

Some of the men dig out clay from the ant-hill and others 
hollow out four shallow holes in a straight line, around 




which the kilns {inganzo) are to be built. The clay is put 
into these holes and puddled. While they are doing this 
the doctor empties a pot of beer, mixed with " medicines," 
into the holes. The clay is then thrown into a heap, the 
men shouting " Kahufwa butale " {" Let the iron die ") while 
doing so. Then they commence moulding [kuhumha] a 
hollow cone about 5 feet high and 6 feet in circumference 
at the largest part ; the clay wall is about 3 or 4 

1 hin Rt- S n (,iaj 

Old Inganzo (Smelting- kilns). 

inches thick. Four of these inganzo are, as a rule, built 
in a line. The shape is shown in the photographs. 

The men, in moulding, take a lump of clay, shape it in 
their hands into a long roll and lay it on the others, thus 
gradually building up the wall bit by bit. The lower part 
of the kiln, where it bulges, is called the belly {ifu). It is 
gradually narrowed to the top. Along the upper edge they 
place old clay spouts horizontally, with one end jutting 
over ; these are arranged all round as a base on which to 
form the lip of the kiln, which is called the Iwala. The lip 
is supported by a number of poles planted in the ground 
around the kiln. In front, as an additional support, a pole 


is fixed on a projection in the wall (called lukombo, or navel). 
When built, the wall is neatly smoothed over. 

When the wall is about a foot high, they bring two 
children, a girl and a boy, from the village and put them 
into the kiln. The doctor gives each a bean {imhwila), 
which they are to crack in their mouths and swallow. The 
bean cracks with a noise (kulukuta), and when they hear 
it all the men raise a loud shout, " Yalnkutila momo ! " {" It 
cracks in there ! "). The cracking of the bean has some 
connection in their minds with the crackling and roaring 
of the fire, and is supposed to conduce to the proper smelting 
of the iron. After they have performed this ceremony, the 
children return home, and it is said that, being thus early 
brought into relationship on an important occasion, they 
should thereafter marry. 

While the kilns are being built, some of the men set to 
work to prepare the inchela, the spouts of clay. They cut 
poles about the thickness of one's arm and 5 feet long, 
and round them evenly ; these are the mihumhyo on which 
the spouts are to be moulded. And they gather a plant 
called Shikantyo, which when put into a small pit and 
beaten into a pulp with a pestle {mwansha) produces a slimy 
viscous {lelumuka) substance which is used to lubricate 
the mihumhyo. Women from the village prepare the clay, 
making it very fine, and men carefully mould it round the 
poles ; when finished, they are rubbed in chaff {bungu) to 
make the clay dry and firm. Thanks to the Shikantyo 
rubbed on the poles they are easily drawn out, and hollow 
cylinders about 4 feet long are thus formed. These are the 

In arranging these in the kiln four openings are made 
near the base, one on each side, north, south, east, and west. 
Four of the inchela are arranged, two above and two below, 
on the west side ; this, where the iron will be taken out, 
has the name of muchabo ; on the east two are put called 
muntanda ; and one each north and south called tupululu. 
Clay is carefully replaced around the inchela to close the 
holes. The inchela slope downwards into the kiln, but 
those from opposite sides do not meet. 

Other men go out to make the charcoal {kuhunga 




mashimhi). The wood cut in the winter is collected in 
heaps. In the afternoon, when the sun is lessening, they 
set fire to the heaps. They have already collected piles of 
clay and a quantity of twigs and branches ; and now in the 
middle of the night they go back to where the fires are 
burning down. Each man takes a bundle of twigs to shelter 
his face from the intense heat and rushes forward to throw 
it on the fire. They can then cover the fire, thus damped 
down somewhat by the branches of trees, with earth. This 

Photo Xev. S. D. Cray. 

Old Inganzo (Smelting-kilns) 

is left about four days ; then they return and dig out the 
charcoal. They weave long receptacles, called miemho 
{" trumpets "), in which to carry the charcoal to the kilns. 
All is now ready for packing the kilns. 

During the time the smelters (bashinganzo) are sojourning 
in their shelter they are in a state of strict taboo {balatonda 
chinichini). If one wishes to visit the village, he must on 
no account have connection with his wife. He may not 
enter his house — in particular he may not sit on his bed — 
but squats down at the door, where, if his wife cooks him 
food, he must eat it. And the women staying in the village 


may not wash, nor anoint themselves, nor put on any orna- 
ments [sliintu sha nkwela) that might attract the notice of 
men. They are, as we were told, in the same state as 
recently bereaved widows. Should a man transgress by 
having intercourse with his wife or any other woman, they 
say the smelting would be a failure. If the fire does not burn 
properly, and the ore is found to be not rightly smelted, 
they know that somebody has done wrong. It is easy, of 
course, to put blame on somebody. The doctor professes, 
by examining the stuff, to detect the defaulter who handled 
the ore, and who then has a rough time of it at the hands 
of his fellows. They call him a warlock [mulozhi) and 
accuse him of bewitching the iron. 

While the men are moulding the kilns they may not 
drink any water, but only namenze. 

If while sleeping in the shelter one of the men should 
dream of a woman and have an emission {kudisuhila) , he 
must on no account conceal the matter from his fellows. 
The doctor then takes steps to purify {kiisalazha) him. He 
cuts two leaf}^ branches and plants them at the crossing 
of two roads so that they meet overhead making a bower. 
The man is made to sit there, and the doctor, after going 
through various incantations, sprinkles him with certain 
" medicines." The man must then run along one road, 
through the bower, and then along the other. In this way 
he is cleansed of his impurity. 

The doctor himself is taboo. He has nothing to do with 
his wives or other women during the time of the operations. 
As one man said to us, " All adultery, in fact everything 
but bad language and stealing, is taboo to him and to us." 
He selects one of the men whom he calls mwinangu (" my 
wife"), but it means no more than that "she" has to 
cook food for him. The doctor may not cut his hair nor 
be shaved all the time. 

No menstruating women may come near the camp, 
nor any one wearing a dark cloth, for dark or black is 

When our informant, quoted above, says that bad 
language is not prohibited, he is thinking specially of the 
songs that are sung during the operations. They are mostly 


of a lewd nature. We give the substance of several we 
have noted : 

1. Kongwe na Malaba ushia, 
Wandweza Kongwe. 
Kongwe na Malaba ushia, 
Wandweza Kongwe ! 
Ndakamuyana Kongwe 
Kafudila mudilo. 
Kongwe ulalweza. 

Literally taken this is innocent enough : 

" Kongwe and Malaba the black, Kongwe horrifies me ; Kongwe 
and Malaba the black, Kongwe horrifies me ! I found Kongwe 
blowing the fire. Kongwe horrifies me." 

Kongwe stands for clitoris feminae {mukongo) and Malaba 
for the labiae (mashino). 

2. Wainda kule, wainda kule, 
Ni twakukundaula, 
Wainda kule, wainda kule, 
Ni twakukundaula, 
Wainda kule. 

" Pass away at a distance, pass away far, — you whom we had 
repeated connection with; pass far away, pass far away, — you 
whom we had repeated connection with, pass far away." 

This is the song they break into when they see a woman 
passing by at some distance. 

3. Leta munwenwe ku mulomo wa nchela, 
Kudi insambo ; 

Leta munwenwe ku mulomo wa nchela, 
Kudi insambo. 

" Bring the pole to the orifice of the incJiela ; there is cleansing 
medicine there ! " 

4. Bachibinda, tulaya, 
Tulayan'abo, tulakupanda ; 
Mwanabo ashale, 
Webona yasumbula kubila. 

" O doctors, we are going, we are going off with them, we are 
going to get medicines. Let their child stay and see whether the 
kiln will tell him it is boiling." 

5. Shampala yamwandauka, 
Yaba ya chidimo, yamwinya. 

" The man with the bare glans, it's all split, it has become of the 
spring, it makes him defaecate." 


6. Shampala, kwinda kule, 
Kano kadinio nka bayumbi, 
Takuletelwa chinombo 
Cliakunombokela mudinso. 

" O man with the bare glans, pass far away ; this Httle work 
belongs to the smelters ; a glans which would strike you in the eye 
must not be brought here." 

7. Bwabila we ! 

Bwabila bunyanja nsambo, 
Buno bwanga budiweme 
Nkalubula mo nkashi ne mwana, 
Bwabila bunyanja nsambo. 

" Oh, it is boiling, it is boiling, the medicine ; when this physic is 
ready I shall free a woman and a child ; it is boiling, the medicine." 

8. Nu watuka bayumbi 
Wakonkomeka mukongo, 
Mashino chikemamba, 
Ulakakudimya maila. 

" You who curse the smelters ! Your clitoris is grown 
tremendously, your labiae will be hoes with which you can cultivate 
your grain." 

g. Nkwidi midimo ku bayumbi, 
Nkwidi midimo, nkwidi midimo. 
Ku bapwaya lubwe, kwidi midimo. 
Eya, mwayana mikondo ya lubwe, 
Mwaanka kualala. 
Bana chibinda na mukashimwine 
Kwabolwa bakalowa mabwe. 

" There is work to the smelters, there is work, there is work ; to 
those who quarry the stone, there is work. Yes, you find the foot- 
prints of the stones, j^ou begin to rejoice. Children of the doctor 
tell it out, they have returned home who bewitched the stones." 

On the morning of the day when the kilns are to be 
packed the doctor goes along some distance into the veld, 
chewing medicines ; he sits down there, facing the east and 
glaring with wide, staring eyes {watutulula menso) . Presently 
he returns, and the great business commences. The drugs 
he has been chewing are to be spat out on to the stone in 
the kiln. When the kiln is opened you can see the medicine 
on the iron ! Without it, no iron ! The packing is done 
almost entirely by the doctor, but all hand him charcoal 



and stone as required. After putting some charcoal at the 
bottom, a fire is lighted, and then they pile up the stone 
and charcoal in alternate layers until the kiln is full. 
"Medicines" are put in also. What these are we do not 
know, except that two of them consist of a piece of 
hippopotamus hide and some guinea-fowl feathers. The 
reason for these is that the fire makes a loud harsh noise 
like the cry of a hippo and guinea-fowl, and somehow, 
therefore, those " medicines " promote the burning. Near 
the top of the kiln the doctor puts more fire and char- 
coal. At the top of all he puts some pieces of split wood 
slantwise ; these are called intoba and have some mystic 

After the doctor has put in the first lot, his " wife " puts 
some in. The beginning of the packing is called kuyumhika. 
The men, while the packing is going on, are called hasakwa. 
The fire is taboo, and must not be named mudilo (" fire "), 
but is called mukadi {" the fierce one "). By praising it thus, 
evidently they think it will burn the more fiercely. They 
speak of it as " boiling " [kuhila). 

As the fire begins to crackle and roar there is great 
excitement. "Waluluma! Waluluma! Wachitatu!" ("It 
roars, it crackles ! It roars, it crackles ! It makes tu tu 
tu tu ! "). 

If the firing has been properly done, by the late afternoon 
the doctor, after repeatedly examining the interior through 
the inchela, announces that all is finished. In taking out the 
iron, they remove the inchela, making large holes on the 
four sides of the kiln. A big hole is dug on the west 
(muchabo) to receive the debris. Men then push poles into 
the three other openings, rake out the debris {kufukuzha), 
and work the iron out towards the opening on the west. It 
is pushed out some way from the kiln and then hacked with 
axes to remove the slag adhering to it. The lump of iron 
is called mutanda. When the stuff is removed from it, it 
is, while still hot, plunged into water. 

The doctor, after the operations of the afternoon, goes 
out. at night into the veld. On his return he goes to his 
house in the village, and taking a tmisebe (" a rattle ") he 
begins to shake it and sing. 




The lump of iron is afterwards broken up, and a smith 
with his bellows melts it and makes it into ingots, which are 
turned into axes, etc., or sold. 

8. Ironwork : (6) Blacksmithing 

A visit to the blacksmith. We find the blacksmith 
{mufuzhi) in the smithy [chifitdilo) , a roughly built shelter, 
without walls, but covered to protect the workers from the 

ivioto /■:. II'. Siiiitit. 

The , Smithy. 

sun, erected in an open space in the village. He is at work 
when we arrive. The assistant is working the bellows 
[mavhuha). These consist of two shallow wooden bowls, 
each with an elongated tube — hollowed out of a solid block, 
placed side by side, and kept together by a piece of hide 
around the tubes. The bowls {mitiha) are covered loosely 
with a soft piece of skin {impapa), tied around the rims with 
cord ; in the centres are fastened small sticks (tusamo) to 
act as the handles of the bellows. The mindi, as the pro- 
jecting tubes are named, are inserted into the enlarged 
mouth of a baked earthenware tube {inchela), the base of 
which is in the fire. By working the sticks up and down. 




the operator sends a continual blast through into the fire. 
This is the arrangement : 

a. a. The mitiba. 

h.b. The impapa. 

c.c. The ttisamo. 

d. The inchela. 

The fire of charcoal is made in a hollow scooped out of 
the floor. 

Other tools are lying about. There is the large hammer 
{inyundo), shaped thus : 




One end of the head is blunt and is used for striking 
[hutwisho), the other end is chisel-shaped [humpando) and 
used for cutting. There is a smaller hammer [chikoma] 
with two blunt ends. There is a pair of tongs (lukwasho) , 
and a small chisel of iron (inkansho). The anvil [itako] 
is a large stone embedded in the ground. To hold a pointed 
piece of iron, he cuts a short stick, into the end of which 
he burns a hole with the object to be held, and thus 
makes a temporary handle called chimina. 

We find the smithy occupied by half-a-dozen people. 
Some of them are here for a gossip ; others have business^ — 
little jobs of their own for which they require the assistance 
of the smith. 

We learn, on inquiring, that iron is rather scarce at 
present. The supplies from Bunduwe and Bumbala are 




for a time exhausted, and use has to be made of old articles : 
they are re-fashioned. At the moment the demand is for 
spears, especially for fish-spears. A customer has brought 
an old hoe to be made up into spear-heads. By the side 
of the blacksmith as he squats (he does all his work squat- 
ting) are four fish-spears he has completed, all but the barbs. 
And he is engaged on a piece of iron 10 inches long, about 
2 wide, and f inch thick (the remains of the hoe). Taking 
this in his pincers he puts it into the forge. When red-hot, 

Photo E. ir. Smith. 

The Blacksmith at Work. 

he takes it out and hammers it with the nyundo on the stone ; 
he has to do this a great number of times, and it gradually 
takes shape. He is lengthening it, and presently is able to 
cut it in two — one piece for a fish-spear and the other for 
an ibezhi spear. 

A man comes along with a hoe which does not work 
quite to his liking. He holds it over the fire for a few 
minutes to soften the gum holding the blade in the handle, 
and removes the blade. He explains to the smith that it 
does not spring rightly when he is using it ; he wants the 
tang rounded more to the axis of the blade. The smith 
by a few dexterous strokes soon does this, but on trying it 


the fastidious owner is not satisfied, and the smith tries 
again. This time the man is satisfied and proceeds to refit 
his hoe in the shaft (kukwila). For this purpose he has 
brought some roots of the mwanzu tree, from which, after 
warming it on the coals of the forge, he scrapes the bark. 
These scrapings he fills into the hole in the shaft, and then 
heating the tang drives it firmly home. The stuff acts as 
a glue or cement to fix the tang firmly. To do this is 

Another customer is after iron bullets {chidyanga). We 
note there are two kinds of these : the round ones, about 
I inch diameter, called imhwila, are of the shape and size 
of the bean of that name ; the others are mitopo, of about 
the size of a Martini-Henry bullet, but flat at both ends. 
These are cut from a solid piece of iron. 

Here comes the old musician of the village — the chief's 
hudimba player. He is going fishing to-night and has a 
fish-spear to put in order. He has the head and a new 
shaft, what he wants is a new intale — the iron binding at 
the end of the shaft. He brings a piece of rough iron with 
him : the smith tells him to put it in the fire and beat it 
roughly into shape. He sets to work rather awkwardly 
and before long has beaten it into a band, narrowing at 
both ends. The smith now takes it in hand ; embedding 
the chisel-end of his large hammer in the ground and using 
the blunt end as an anvil, and working with the chikoma, 
he soon completes and hands it back to the owner, who now 
takes the blade of his axe, and bends the band (after making 
it red-hot in the fire) around the tang, hammering it so as 
to make a neat cylinder. He then takes the new shaft, 
heats the spear-head in the fire, and burns out the hole to 
receive the tang. He pomba's this as described above, and 
then fits the band around it to keep it tight. 

All this time the smith has been working at his spear- 
head. It is now beaten into the shape required, and he 
proceeds to flatten the blade. He puts it on the butt of his 
inyundo and beats it with the chikoma, leaving the midrib 
(mongo) and a sharp edge {buchesi). The spear-head is not 
put in water to temper it, lest it should break when used. 
Nor is the hoe; but an axe-head is. In the intervals while 


the spear-head is in the forge he is making the barbs [mala) 
on the fish-spears : to do this he uses the inkansho chisel, 
cutting the barbs in the cold, each with a stroke of the 
chikoma. The head of the spear is rectangular in section, 
and he makes the cuts along each edge, so that there are 
four lines of barbs : they stop about i| inches from the 
point. They are cruel-looking things. 

The operations just described do not exhaust the smith's 
work. What else does he make ? 

The spears of the Ba-ila are in some variety. Here are 
the names and functions of twelve of them. 

1. The Kapitla — called also impiila namadiinza ("the 
silencer"). This is a hunting spear, and is used for finishing 
off a wounded beast. 

2. The Lukona. — -This has three barbs on one side and one 
on the other. It takes its name from the fact that it is inherited 
(kukona) by a nephew from his uncle. This is a war spear. 

3. The Muniba, the making of which is described above. It 
is used for spearing fish and also in war. They say of it, in the 
latter capacity, " Ng'iikwete cholwe ku lumamha " (" It is the one 
which has good fortune in war"). It is the first to be thrown 
by the warrior out of his bundle. 

4. Chanza cha mpongo {" the head (with horns attached) 
of a goat " — so called from some fancied resemblance). It has 
two barbs and a long rectangular shank, each edge being cut 
into short barbs. It is used in hunting and fighting. 

5. Shichokochoko — so called because supposed to resemble 
the fish of that name, which has an erectile spike on the back. 
The barb is 2 inches long and is curved backwards. It has a 
long blade, like the kapula, but a longer shank armed with 
two barbs. 

6. The Impengula. — This has a short, stout shaft, at the butt 
of which is a chisel-edged digger projecting i-J inches from the 
butt. The blade is long and broad. Too heavy to throw, and 
only used at close quarters in fighting or hunting, this spear is a 
useful weapon. 

7. Chinkoshi — so called from some resemblance to a mealie 
cob. The blade is broad, the shank armed with barbs like the 

8. Shikamimbia (" the swallow ") — used in war and hunting. 
The shank is cut like a mumha. 

9. Chirnpata — so called from resemblance to the fish of that 
name. It has a broad blade, with very little shank. It is used 
in hunting, and thrown by a strong man inflicts a ghastly wound. 




10. Kahezhi — a long-bladed, short-shanked spear, deriving 
its name from its common function of cutting and carving 
(kubeza) : it is used in hunting. 

3 4 6 6 7 8 9 

Some Ba-ila Spears. 

10 11 1-2 

Photo E. jr. Smil/i. 

11. Inkombo ("the navel") — has one long barb. Used in 

12. Shiiwichinkoshi. — It has a long shank, heavily barbed 




like the chinkoshi, and a short blade like a shikamimhia (in the 

photo one is broken off). If without the barbs, it is called shitwi. 

The different parts of a spear are : lusako, the shaft : 

miishishi, the tang ; huchesi, the edge ; insonga, the point ; 

r/:o/o n. 11: Smith. 

Ba-ila Axes. 

mongo, the midrib ; infale, the binding. The shaft may be 
made of several woods, the best is said to be mulnba. 

Besides the spears, the smiths make many other things, 
chief of which are the following : 


The axes are of three kinds, but are all constructed in 
the same way. They consist of a haft of tough wood and 
a blade. The blade varies in shape and terminates in a 
spike, which fits into a hole in the haft-head. 

The kembe is an axe designed for ordinary rough work. 
The shaft is heavy and club-shaped, to give weight. The 
blade is narrow. It is not glued into the hole, but can be 
dislodged {kukula) easily by a knock ; then by turning 
and replacing the blade the owner has an adze. 

r/io/o /■:. //'. SmiiJi. 
Battle-axe [Bukana\. 

The chihanga is an axe designed for lighter work, or 
merely to be carried as a European would carry a walking- 
stick. Various forms are shown in the photo : one of 
them is constructed, in two portions, wholly in metal, 
and the upper end of the shaft is carved into the figure 
of a human head. Many of these axes are beautifully 
made, with graceful hafts and ornamental blades, sym- 
metrical, and evenly balanced. In one we measured the 
blade was 3 inches at the widest points, with a total length 
of 8| inches, and the haft was 20 inches long. The blade 
was set into the haft at an angle of about 20 degrees ; the 


haft, somewhat bow-shaped, rising i inch in i6|. The 
centre of balance was about 4 inches from the head. The 
whole weighed about a pound. 

The hukana ("battle-axe") is made like the chihanga, 
but with a differently shaped blade and a rather stouter 
haft. The haft is often covered with wire-work. 

The hoes of the Ba-ila consist of a broad blade of un- 
tempered iron, shghtly curved, terminating in a spike which 
is set into a shaft. The blade has a total length of about 
12 inches ; it is about 6 inches wide along the cutting edge, 
and tapers to 4 inches at the top. The spike is 3 inches 
at the base, and tapers to \ inch. The razors {imo) made 
by the smiths are thinly beaten out and spatula-shaped, 
about 2 inches by i\ inches. Tongs (lukwasho) for picking 
up live coals from the fire to light pipes with, consist of 
two narrow pieces of iron, welded at one extremity, with 
a close-fitting ring which slips up and down. They often 
have a roughly made chain attached. Adzes {inibezo) for 
wood-carving are made on the same principle as the axes 
and hoes, with a shorter haft and a chisel-shaped blade. 
Bells of various kinds {ingonji) are made by some, and 
also fish-hooks (see p. 160). 

We were frequently asked what clan we belonged to ; 
and when we tried to explain that the English were no 
longer divided into clans, but that the name Smith indicates 
that one's forefathers were blacksmiths, they have replied, 
" We know that clan ; it is the Benelubulo," and on the 
strength of that we have been welcomed as brothers by 
some of the famous smiths. We have taken qvery oppor- 
tunity of watching some of these friends at work and of 
inquiring as to their business, but are not sure that we 
have learnt all the secrets of the art. One of them gave 
us the following account of the way in which a smith learns 
his trade. " This is how he begins," he said. " He finds 
in his heart a great desire, and is always thinking about 
blacksmithing. Then he begins a little experimenting, but 
does not make a good job of it— no, the things he makes 
are all ill-shaped. Nevertheless, he does not throw it up 
in disgust, but goes on, and in the course of time masters 
it. As for using medicines in the craft, all he does is to 


protect himself. He procures ' medicine ' that is called 

Photo H. ir. Smith. 

Blacksmith's Work. 

1. Razors [I mo). 

2. A pair of tongs [Lukwasho). 

3. An adze [Imbezo). 

4. A hoe blade 1 , , , , 

5. A hoe )(^'"«^«). 

chinjidizha, i.e. ' that which shuts me in,' so that a man 


may not with impunity make him out to be a warlock on 
account of the things which he forges. It acts thus : If 
any one says of the smith, ' That man aspires to be a 
chief through his art,' i.e. he is using magic means in it 
with the purpose of destroying the chief and taking his 
place, then God sees that he is wishing to cause his feUow- 
man's death, and he so acts that the traducer himself 
dies ; his medicines return upon himself and he dies ; 
that is how those warlocks die. Smithery is a thing in- 
herited. If your father was a smith, then you will follow 
in his steps. When you die, your son will take up the 
trade. That is the 'medicine' of the blacksmith." 



The word musamo, which we shall have to use constantly, 
and which we roughly translate " medicine," connotes, 
like the Latin medicamen, medicamentum, and the Greek 
(jidp/xaKov, not only various medicinal remedies proper, but 
also, and much more, many things whose power we should 
call magical. The difficulty is to separate the two. From 
the native point of view there is no difference : musamo 
is musamo whatever use it may be put to ; and as we are 
trying to look at things through their eyes, we will follow 
their example here. This chapter may be regarded as an 
introduction to Chapter XX. 

I. Ba-ila Ideas of Anatomy and Physiology 

As hunters, the Ba-ila are used to cutting up animals 
as well as cattle ; on occasion, as we shall see, they also 
cut, or used to cut up human bodies ; hence they are 
familiar with the shapes of, and have names for, the various 

The following are distinguished and named : 

Head — mutwi ; skull, ingongolo ; brain, bongo ; nose, 
inango ; nostrils, manango ; bridge of nose, mushishi, mo- 
mbombo wenango ; cavities of nose, manshonya ; jawbone, 
mwezhi ; chin, chilevu ; cheek, itama ; forehead, inkumu ; 
external occipital protuberance, inkwezu ; back of head and neck, 
mukoshi ; temples, mapobe ; hair on the head, masusu ; ear, 
kutwi ; eye, dinso ; pupil of eye, imboni ; eyebrow, chikowe ; 
eyelash, inkowe ; orifice of mouth, mulomo ; lips, milomo ; 



cavity of mouth, kanwa ; uvula, katambulanshima ; neck, 
inshingo ; tongue, mulaka ; tonsil, kapopo ; teeth, mcno ; 
canine teeth, mambwidi ; molar teeth, bachabanda ; trachea, 
ikuhnnino ; gullet, mumino ; Adam's apple, imbobelo. 

Trunk.- — Body, mubidi, luseba ; thoracic cavity, kango, 
chamba ; ribs, invhwabuti ; spine, mongo ; spinal cord, ino- 
kunoku ; clavicle, mubale ; hollow above clavicle, intesho ; 
ilium, ikungu ; sacrum, muzhindo, chikanu ; coccyx, inunu ; 
lumbar region, bukome ; waist, chibunu ; back, inuma ; umbili- 
cus, lukombo ; umbilical cord, ludila ; abdomen, below navel, 
ibumbu ; above navel, ifu ; hair on body, boza ; hair on 
abdomen, mulalabungu ; breast, lukolo ; teat, kanunkelo ; axilla, 
inkwa ; heart, mozo ; lung, ifufwe ; diaphragm, luambanyama ; 
stomach, ifu ; liver, muni ; pancreas, mubenzhi ; spleen, 
ibenzhi ; kidney, insa ; bladder, isubilo ; gall-bladder, isubilo 
dia ndulwe ; bowel, bula ; anus, inyo ; buttocks, matako. 

Genitalia. — Male, bulombwana ; female, bukaintu ; penis, 
intoni ; prepuce, ipapa ; glans, impala ; fraenum preputii, 
shitetengwe ; testicles, mabolo ; os pubis, chinena ; hair on 
pubes, mazha ; labiae, mashino, malepe ; vaginal orifice, 
intoto ; vagina, mupulu ; clitoris, mukongo ; uterus, izhadilo. 

Upper Limb. — Shoulder-blade, ibesho ; between shoulder- 
blades, luwezu, indelo ; muscles of arm, mubondo ; arm, 
kuboko ; fleshy part of upper arm, insafu ; humerus, musangi ; 
forearm, mukono ; hand, itashi ; finger, munwe ; fist, imfunshi ; 
nail, Iwala ; palm of hand, lukombazhi ; elbow, lukokola ; 
knuckle, inungo. 

Lower Limb. — Leg, kulu, mwendo, itende ; hip, impasa ; hip- 
joint, kasolo ; femur, mwindi ; marrow bones of leg and arm, 
momo ; calf, intumbu ; shin, mumwansangu ; knee, ivhwi ; toe, 
kalulome ; ankle bone, impongolo ; foot, chiumba ; tendo 
Achillis, mushisa. 

Fluids of the Body.- — Blood, buloa ; perspiration, ibe ; saliva, 
mate ; gall, indulwe ; urine, mushu ; semen, bwenze ; menstrual 
flow, luswa. 

They name also certain points which they regard as 
vital spots, where a wound would be dangerous if not fatal. 
Thus : chipande cha nshingo, the bony protuberance at 
the back of the neck ; kasukilo, above the knee, where the 
femoral artery is ; umpepe, above the ankle, where the 
post-tibial artery is ; mubondo, on the arm, where the 
brachial artery is ; and makalansa, in the region of the 
kidneys. They do not distinguish arteries from veins, nor 
either from nerves, but in thus giving these special names 


to vital points they have, as will be recognised, localised 
some of the most dangerous places for wounds and blows. 

From the list given it will be seen that they give names 
to all the prominent parts of the body, but of the functions 
of the internal organs they are almost completely ignorant. 
The parts they assign to the organs in the economy of the 
body are psychical rather than physiological, i.e. they 
regard them more as the seats of emotions than of vital 
processes. This does not, however, apply to all. 

Thus, the pupil of the eye {imboni) is associated with 
sight. The reflection of external objects in the pupil con- 
stitutes vision. Should there be no reflection, the imboni 
is dead ; the man is blind. They recognise the difference 
between long and short sight, and say of a man with the 
former, " Alalampa menso akwe" ("His eyes are long"). 
There is thought to be something baneful in the direct 
glance : one who stares at another is considered as plan- 
ning, or actually to be causing, some evil ; he is called 
muzumo-a-menso (" hard-eyed"). 

The back of the head and neck is named makoshi. 
They swear by it — ■" Aza makani shikaamba dinji, nku ku 
makoshi kutadibonwa " (" By the back of my head, which I 
cannot see, I will never speak of it again "). 

A remarkable feature of the Ba-ila physiology is that so 
many of the organic processes are ascribed to creatures 
called hapuka, a word of wide meaning, applied to insects, 
reptiles, and fabulous animals. 

Thus, within the ears they suppose to dwell bapuka 
called bashimpulukutwi, whose function is that of hearing. 
They are born with a person and remain with him as long 
as he retains the faculty of hearing ; but it is not deafness 
that kills them — it is their death that causes deafness. 
When a man says " Ndafwih&a bashimpulukutwi " {" I am 
bereft of my bashimpulukutwi "), he means that he is deaf. 
Earache is said to be caused by the restless movements of 
these bapuka ; balapuka (" they stir about "). Temporary 
deafness, as caused by the discharge of a gun close by, 
means that they are stunned — " Ndafwa ingungu," says the 
man. Ear-wax is supposed to be produced by them. And 
when a man hears good news he says, "Makani mainu I 


Bashimpuliikiitwi babotelwa " (" Fat tidings ! The hashi- 
mpulukutwi are delighted "). 

Another mupuka is the shiu, who hves within the 
mastoid process, the bony protuberance behind the ear, 
which is named inganda ya shin {"shin's house"). If a 
man receives a heavy blow behind the ear, it kills sJiiti 
and also the man himselt. They say that from the mouth 
there are ducts [inshiiiga) leading up to the ear ; these are 
called bashikamilongwe oha shiu, and when a man has eaten 
something particularly tasty, and feels a sensation going 
upwards from the mouth to the ear, he declares that these 
bashikamilongwe are delighted. What they thus describe 
is really, of course, the branch of the vagus called " the 
alderman's nerve." 

The tongue and lips are the organs of speech, and a 
rapid impulsive speaker is named muba kn mulaka, or 
muba ku niidomo (" light-tongued " or " light-lipped "). 

They are familiar with the appearance of the brain, 
for in war the calvarium of an enemy was hacked off {kn- 
pampa), taken as a token to the chief, and used as a drinking- 
cup ; and they have some slight idea of the brain as a seat 
of mental life. Thus of a stupid person they say, " Bongo 
bwakwembubiabe" ("His brains are bad"). "Warm-brained" 
is the epithet applied to a fearless person : " Ulakasala a 
mutwi, ulapia bongo " (" He is warm on the head, his brains 
are hot"). But the brain is not regarded as the original 
source of our thoughts; they arise mu chamba ("in the 

They have noticed the pulsating [shabwa] ducts (inshinga) 
going up the neck and appearing on the temples, and it is 
these nshi shitola matelaishi " which convey the thoughts " 
from the chest to the brain. The chest generally is the 
seat of thought and feeling. A person with " a heavy 
chest " [shichamba chilemu) is a forbearing person ; a truthful 
person is named shichamba (" Mr. Chest"). 

In a particular sense, the heart is regarded as the seat 
of mentality. The passions centre there and all thought 
radiates from it. To say " Ndatelaika mu chamba" ("I think 
in my chest ") is only another way of saying "in my heart." 
In a word, as the proverb has it, " Mozo ngu sungwe " [" The 



heart is the prompter"). Hence such expressions as the 
following: " Uina mozo" ("He has no heart"), said of a 
quick-tempered person ; mukando-mozo (" a big heart") is 
one who keeps up resentment against another with whom 
he has quarrelled; a shimozomufwafwi ("a short-hearted 
person ") is one quick at picking a quarrel ; on the other 
hand, shiswezha-mozo ("a clean-hearted person") is one 
who is patient, forbearing. The heart is also the seat of 
the affections and virtues. A muzvimo-mozo (" a hard- 
hearted person ") is, as amongst ourselves, one without 
natural affection ; but a mubongvhu-mozo {" a soft-hearted 
person") is kind and gentle. A muha-mozo ("a light- 
heart ") is one with many faults, a thief, a liar, etc. ; while 
a mulema-mozo (" a heavy-heart ") is a virtuous person. To 
say of a person ' ' Mozo wakwe ngwa hwami " {" He has a kingly 
heart" — literally, "His heart is of chieftainship") means 
that he is a trustworthy person. The heart is also the seat 
Df purpose. A shimozomwi is " a single-hearted person," 
intent upon one thing ; while to say of any one " Udi miozo 
yohili " (" He has two hearts ") means that he is unstable. 
Thoughts and desires come from the heart. " Ndafwa chisushi 
ku mozo " ("I am dead of a desire in the heart ") is to express 
a strong longing for something. It is in his heart that a 
man feels astonishment : " Ndavhwa mozo " {" My heart 
comes out ") or " Chankusha mozo " ("It takes out my 
heart ") is said when a man is startled, amazed. 

The heart is felt beating in the chest and also at the 
f ontanelle in children — called lubwebwe, and also . a mozo 
("the place of the heart"). The heart shares with the 
genital organs the seat of vitality. It is the heart which 
breathes [uzoza ngu mozo) ; and any one hit on the head 
a mozo will probably die. The genitals are called ku 
hiimi (" at the life ") ; of a person injured in that region 
they say, " Tchita na ulapona ukuti chilwazhi chidi ku humi " 
("There is no telling whether he will live, for the sickness 
is at the life "). 

The processes of reproduction are ascribed to certain 
bapuka. It is a mupuka in the male that secretes the 
semen, and impotence is caused by its ceasing to function. 
It is thought that the eggs of the domestic fowl, fat, and 


katongola (a dish made up of ground-nuts) will thus prevent 
the mupuka from working, or at any rate by becoming 
fixed in the loins will block the passages. Impotence is 
regarded as a great misfortune. Boys are allowed to test 
themselves upon women ; should it prove that a boy is 
impotent, the woman will wax angry and make a claim 
upon him for, as they say, "cursing her" {wamukika). 
If a man becomes impotent after marriage, his wife can 
claim divorce and the return of the goods given for her ; 
she reports to her relations that the man is mwana budio 
{" nothing but a child ") so that she cannot conceive by him. 

The impotent man or boy goes to the doctor, who treats 
him. The medicine takes the form either (a) of an emetic 
which is supposed to reopen the blocked passage, or {b) a 
certain drug is twisted into a thread and passed into the 
urethral orifice, left there for a time, and then drawn out, 
bringing, it is said, the obstruction with it. The man is 
then cured. By testing himself on a woman secretly he 
proves his cure and then can find a wife. 

In a woman there are said to be two of these bapuka, 
the one male, the other female. The male is an inert 
creature, but upon the female depend all the generative 
functions. It is present in an immature girl, but only in 
a rudimentary state ; it grows as she grows, and when the 
first menstruation takes place it is said mupuka wamupa 
'maloa ("the mupuka has given her blood"). The name 
given to this female mupuka is Chibumba (" the moulder," 
from kubumba, to mould) ; it is regarded as personal, as 
is shown by the pronoun used with it, wa not cha. It is so 
named because it forms the child in the womb. It lies 
within the uterus, with its head in the orifice. When in 
the coitus the semen reaches so far the Chibumba catches 
it in its mouth ; it has no power of reaching beyond the 
orifice. Having secured the semen, it closes the orifice, 
licks the semen and rolls it over and over, and in that 
way forms it into a foetus. At the time of delivery 
the mupuka is reluctant to let go its creature, and the 
pangs of childbirth are said to be caused by its struggles 
in attempting to hold it back. Sometimes it curls itself 
up around the orifice of the uterus, determined to prevent 


the child's escape, and in that case parturition is protracted. 
The woman's relations then consult a diviner, who diagnoses 
that the mupuka is angry, and directs them to secure the 
necessary medicine from a doctor whose name he gives 
them. The medicine is administered, and forces the mupuka 
to relax its hold. Chibumba not only tries to prevent 
the child from being born, but does so with the fell purpose 
of devouring it. It sometimes happens, of course, that 
after protracted labour the child is born with a harelip, 
or with ears or other parts incomplete, and these are 
pointed to as evidence of the way in which the mupuka 
partially devours children. 

Barrenness is supposed to be due to the lethargy or 
debility of Chibumba ; it is so lazy or so weak that it will 
not or cannot close the orifice of the uterus and perform 
the moulding process. The diviner, on being consulted, 
assigns this as the cause of the woman's failure to conceive, 
and medicine is administered to stir the mupuka up, to 
strengthen and energise it. 

On the other hand, if a woman has a succession of 
protracted confinements, or if she be so unfortunate as to 
have all her children die in early infancy, steps are taken 
to kill Chibumba outright ; medicine is given to that end, 
and as a result, of course, the woman does not again conceive, 

2. Medicines 

The Ba-ila have an extraordinary faith in musamo, 
" medicine." They have medicines for everything. They 
would say with Ovid, " Tantum medicamina possunt." 
Not only have they remedies, as we have, for various 
diseases, but also prophylactics. And, further, where we 
rely upon practised skill in different arts, they pin their 
faith to medicines ; thus, there are medicines to give skill 
in shooting, in turnery, etc. There are also medicines to 
ensure good luck. It is a common thing for a European, 
with the reputation of being a good shot, to be asked for 
musamo to ensure the man's gun always killing. People 
ask for medicine to wash their eyes with, so that they may 
be able to read. There are therefore, from our point of 


view, two great divisions in their pharmacopoeia : (a) drugs 
for curing diseases, [b) charms. But the people do not draw 
any distinction ; and it is impossible in all cases for us to 
say whether the action of any medicine is properly thera- 
peutic or only magical. 

It is difficult to suppress a smile on the enumeration of 
these medicines, many are so palpably absurd ; but if a 
native could express himself he would say that the basis 
of his faith in medicine was much the same as our own, 
viz. experience. Our therapeutical science is still largely 
empirical ; we cannot always explain how precisely a drug 
acts, all we know is that it does have a certain effect, A 
Mwila would be equally at a loss to explain the action of 
many of his medicines, but he believes he has the same 
right to believe in them as we have to believe in ours. A 
logical European would say, " That a few puffs of your 
mufwehahachazi will kill a man I can believe ; that your 
kabwengwe will relieve the inflammation caused by snake 
poison in the eye I have the best of reasons for crediting ; 
but since the world began it was never known that a man 
grew rich simply by wearing a charm round his neck." 
The two categories stand on quite a different footing — to 
us, but not to a native. A man smoked mufwebabachazi and 
died ; a man wore the charm and grew rich — -what better 
proof do you want of the efficacy of the two misamo ? The 
distinction between post hoc and propter hoc is one that he 
does not understand. If you ask him, further, whether 
So-and-so who wears the charm is not still a very poor and 
unfortunate creature, he will readily agree, and go on to 
explain, probably, that somebody with stronger medicine 
is secretly working against him, overcoming the virtue of 
the charm he is wearing. All failures meet with a ready 
explanation ; their faith in " medicine " is not thereby in 
the least dispelled. 

The misamo, as we shall see presently, are of various 
kinds, mostly the leaves or bark or roots of certain trees 
and shrubs. The knowledge of many of them is widely 
spread among the people ; others are the jealously guarded 
secrets of the doctors. Their names and properties are 
handed down from parent to child, from doctor to doctor 


Sometimes a man claims to have a medicine revealed to him 
in a dream by some ghost ; should a cure follow its adminis- 
tration, that would be quite sufficient to establish its reputa- 
tion. People suffering from the same disease would get 
to hear of it, and the man derive profit and fame from 
its dispensation. 

There are many different ways of administering the 
medicines ; we are speaking now of what may be called 
drugs as distinguished from charms. 

A decoction may be made by beating up the leaves or 
roots in a mortar and then soaking or boiling them in water. 
The decoction is drunk, or mixed with food and eaten. 

Another method is to put the medicine in a pot of 
boiling water on the embers ; the patient is then made to 
sit with the pot between his legs with his eyes fixed upon 
the water. A skin or blanket is then thrown over him 
and he is left to sweat. When intense perspiration [chuhwi) 
has been induced, he is uncovered, and cold water, in which 
medicine has been put, is sprayed over him. This is the 
Ba-ila equivalent to a vapour bath and is much used in 
chest complaints. 

A variation of this is smoking a patient by burning drugs 
in a potsherd and making him sit, covered in a blanket, 
in the fumes. 

Cupping, with or without medicines, is largely practised. 
It is called kusumika. The musuku {" cupping horn ") is 
the hollow horn of a small ox or antelope, about 5 inches 
long ; at the point a small hole is drilled and covered over 
with wax. When applying it to the painful part the hole 
is uncovered, and the operator, after drawing out the air 
with his mouth, replaces the wax over the hole with his 
tongue, thus establishing a vacuum. Before applying the 
horn, incisions are made in the skin of the patient with a 
lumo {" razor ") . This is done in the case of headache or other 
painful affection. Sometimes, especially when the pain is 
in the chest, a small quantity of medicine is rubbed into the 
incisions before the horn is applied. The pain is supposed 
to be drawn out with the blood. You may see a person 
with three of these horns on at once. 

Massage is also employed, with or without accompanying 


drugs. The flesh of the patient is rubbed with the balls 
of the thumbs and pinched between the forefinger and 
thumb. In some cases the operator twists leaves around 
his great toe, and with this massages the patient's chest. 

Phlebotomy is sometimes practised, usually without, 
sometimes with, medicines. The limb is tied above and 
below so that it swells, and then by means of a razor a vein 
is opened. This is regarded as a very efficacious operation. 
The lushinga, or blood-vessel, is looked upon as the cause 
or carrier of the pain. Toothache is lushinga, neuralgia 
is lushinga, sciatica is lushinga, and in all such cases it is 
supposed that if the blood is not drawn the chest will fill 
with blood and death result. 

The simplest remedy, without administration of a drug, 
is that of tying a string tightly around the head or other 
part affected. 

In skin diseases certain leaves or other drugs are applied 
by simply tying on, or decoctions are made and used as 

When a person is ill it is often thought necessary to 
segregate him from the baneful influences emanating from 
pregnant women and those who have aborted ; conse- 
quently a shed is built right away in the forest and there 
the patient is doctored. 

A musamo usually has a taboo associated with it, things 
a patient must refrain from doing lest it lose its efficacy. 
Soft meat is prohibited. Very frequently it is sexual 
intercourse that is forbidden. We remember well the 
indignation of a man against his son who had been doctored 
again and again for elephantiasis, and grew no better, but 
rather worse, because against medical orders he would 
insist upon pursuing the women. He called him " the 
village dog." 

3. Diseases and Remedies 

We must preface this section by saying that our object 
being not a scientific classification and enumeration of the 
diseases these people suffer from — a task for which, indeed, 
we are not qualified — but rather to exhibit their own ideas 
of the diseases, we have not attempted, save in a few 


unmistakable instances, to identify the diseases, but have 
simply enumerated and described them as they would do 
themselves. We have, however, for convenience, roughly 
grouped them under such heads as one finds in a medical 

A Mwila names and describes symptoms rather than 
diseases. He generally begins by loosely speaking of the 
part affected, saying, " Ndafwa mutwi " ("I am dead of the 
head "), " Ndafwa itende " (" I am dead of the foot "), etc. 

[a) Specific Infectious Diseases 

ChisanUda or Bayihayi : mumps. Ground-nuts are threaded 
on a string with short pieces of grain-stalk and tied round the 

Chihomhwe or Ihomhwe : measles. This often sweeps through 
a district causing many deaths. The treatment is to smear the 
patient over with impemba, a white substance found in the flats 
which is said to be mazhi a nzoka (snake faeces). 

Chimheniba : smallpox ; called also, Mukolotila, Nachinkwa, 
and Mudimakubushu, the last meaning " the digger-on-the- 
face." This is not endemic, but there have been severe epidemics 
in the past, the last, in 1893, carrying off hundreds, perhaps 
thousands, of people. Many recovered, and to-day in any 
assembly of men pock-marked faces will be seen. Treatment : 
take a thorn and open the pustules when they are ripe. Then 
break up a root of the Mukumbia (used in making beer) and 
foment the sores. Leaves of a certain bush are beaten to a 
powder and sprinkled over the sores. A decoction from the 
root of the Mubumbu tree is given to drink. If the eyes are 
affected, mazhi a ntombela {" excrement of lizards ") is rubbed 
around them. 

Bimono : yaws. A disease characterised by circular rounded 
excrescences, crowned with yellow matter, on the limbs, trunk, 
and face. This is very prevalent in many districts. Babies 
present a pitiable appearance with these loathsome sores around 
the mouth and on the buttocks. The Ba-ila say the disease 
came to them, within living memory, from the north-east. It 
was probably introduced by the slave-traders. Treatment : not 

Chinsenda : leprosy ; called also Mudilo wa Leza (" the fire 
of God"). The natives seem to have no idea of its being in- 
fectious, at least they take no steps towards segregation, except 
that when the disease appears the patient is ordered to leave 
his wife and until cured to have no intercourse with her or other 


women. This taboo is ascribed to Leza. Should the leper break 

riiolo li. jr. Smzlh. 

LuKALO, A Leper Woman. 

it, his fingers and toes will inevitably rot away. Eland and zebra 
meat is taboo to him lest his flesh should peel off {motoka). 
Curiously enough, in view of some modern theories, we have met 


with some who say it comes of eating rotten fish ; if that were 
so, it should be much more common than it is, for most Ba-ila 
dearly love a piece of " high " fish. There are some drugs that 
are claimed to be efficacious in curing the disease. Of these the 
root of the Mufumbu tree is scraped and a decoction made from 
it in which the body is washed. A decoction is also drunk that 
is made from the root of the Mutundumaswe tree. The root of 
a short shrub named Chipezhabazhike is pounded, wrapped in 
cloth and smoked, and the bundle is then applied to the sores. 
The root of the Mululwe tree is also used ; deep incisions are 
made in the root, which is then soaked in water ; the decoction, 
which is bitter, is drunk and used as a lotion. 

Under this heading we ought also to class malarial fever. 
Curiously enough, though they suffer largely from it, the 
Ba-ila have no definite name for it. It is called mwanza, 
(" severe headache "), or the patient will say he is " dead as 
to the head " {ndafwa mutwi) ; or " dead as to the whole 
body" {ndafwa muhidi onse). One treatment is to chew 
and swallow the juice of the leaves of the Mungomba tree. 
Leaves of the Chilalwe tree are also chewed and the bitter 
juice squirted into the nostrils and ears of the patient. 
Cupping is also resorted to. 

(b) General Diseases 

Mushongo is a complaint of whi-ch many are said to die, the 
symptom being that a man suddenly collapses and falls down 
unconscious. It is supposed to be spread by people out of 
hatred. A man secures medicine from a doctor which enables 
him by treading on a person, or on his shadow, or by scraping 
the basin out of which the person drinks, to give him this disease ; 
i.e. it is caused by witchcraft. Treatment : the roots of the 
Chibwebwe tree are scraped, the patient is cupped all over the 
body, and the scrapings are rubbed into the cuts. 

Kafungo ( = Kahe) is another disease whose origin is ascribed 
to what we should call magical causes. It is associated with 
abortion. A woman who has aborted is supposed to have it, 
and is regarded therefore as a very dangerous person. The 
foetus is buried, but is supposed to be able still to exert its baneful 
influence. The disease may be contracted by walking near the 
spot where the foetus is buried, by having connection with the 
woman, or by smoking her pipe. Before the husband will 
resume cohabitation with her, she must have connection with 
another man, to whom she therebv transfers the disease. So 


contagious is it, that a woman who has aborted may not, until 
she is purified, enter another person's hut. We have seen people 
said to be suffering with this disease. One man appeared to us 
to be afflicted with disease of the pehdc bones. He supposed 
that he had caught the disease by inadvertently walking over 
the place where a foetus had been buried. A second case was 
of a woman who was in great torment with a curious complaint 
in the soles of the feet ; it appeared as if it might be neuralgia. 
A third case was a man who seemed to have decay of the jaw 
and cheek bones. Another case reported to us was diagnosed 
by a European doctor as abscess of the liver. A strong emetic 
is administered in such a case, and the patient is said to bring up 
something like an egg ; very possibly such a remedy might 
really be efficacious. The root of the Kamwaya is crushed in 
a mortar, soaked in hot water, and applied to the external sores. 

Diabana is a febrile condition in children, said to come in the 
wet seasons. Roots and leaves of the Shikotamukwa bush are 
burnt in a potsherd and the child " smoked " in the fumes. 

Maimbwe is a form of general debility supposed to be caused 
by a ghost. The treatment consists in the friends singing {imha) 
special songs {inyimho sha maimbwe) to drive the ghost away. 

Imbala is another ghost-caused complaint, the symptom being 
extreme weakness and thinness. A person who, whatever he 
eats, gets no fatter is supposed to have a malevolent ghost within 
him which devours the food he takes. Such a man they put 
into a hut, and girls who have not yet menstruated make a new 
fire and " smoke " him to drive out the ghost. 

Liikoko or Bukola is another disease characterised by extreme 
emaciation in the patient. This is said to be caused, like kafungo, 
by walking over a buried foetus {kasowe). There is a remedy, 
known to very few, but we have not found it. 

(c) Diseases of the Respiratory System 

Kamuchamha is described as "a spear in the chest " on 
account of the sharp shooting pains. It is said often to be 
caused by lifting heavy weights, and the patient spits blood. 
Treatment : the root of the Shikakoto bush is cut up and cooked 
in porridge ; the patient is to eat the porridge, leaving the roots. 

M anchilinchili occurs in children. To treat it, they cut off 
the tag ends of the skin in which the child is carried {mondo wa 
ngitbo) and tie up in them insects called Inkofunkofu ; they are 
then fastened around the child's neck. 

Chimanu : pneumonia, is treated by a decoction made of the 
roots of the Munto tree, drunk by the patient. 

Isatabafwi, said to rise from jealousy, hence the name, " that 


which jealous people suffer." It is a cold in the head. A 
remedy for this and other forms of catarrh is a plant called 
K: polamushizhi, a vilely smelling thing. This when snuffed is, 
as we can testify, efficacious in clearing the nose. 
Kankwembwa is a chronic cough. 

{d) Diseases of the Circulatory System 

Ushibangulwa is characterised by swellings in the hands and 
feet, and is supposed to be caused somehow by the blood being 
out of order. Treatment : leaves of the Mungomba tree, after 
being crushed in a mortar and soaked in warm water, are applied 
to the swellings. 

Mununka or Kunokola ("bleeding at the nose"), said to be 
caused by exposure to the sun. The patient is made to inhale 
the fumes from the burning bark of a certain tree. 

Mozo (" heart ") is the name given to palpitation of the heart. 
Embedded in the ground one often finds a hard round lump, 
formed by ants, and called by the Ba-ila Mozo wa nshi {" the 
heart of the earth "). This is ground up, put in water, and drunk. 
It is a cure seemingly suggested by analogy : the hard " heart 
of the earth " will strengthen the patient's heart. , 

Kaloho is a very severe pain in the chest (? angina pectoris), 
described as something clutching the heart and pulling it as if 
to tear it out. This is another disease supposed to be due to 
witchcraft. Treatment : take a root of the Inganza tree and 
scrape it. Make some incisions in the skin over the patient's 
heart and rub in the scrapings of the root. Then put on the 
cupping horn, tie one end of a string to the horn and the other 
end to a short stick planted in the ground ; the disease will pass 
along the cord and be lost in the earth. 

Miya ("oaths") is a name given to a complaint supposed 
to be caused by false swearing. The sufferer bleeds from the 
nose and mouth, and the ends of his fingers swell and redden 
as if they would burst. But it must be noted that it is not the 
false swearer who suffers, but the other man. Thus if A accuses 
B of taking his things, and B swears falsely that he has never 
seen them, then A gets this disease. The treatment consists in 
" smoking " the patient in the fumes from the burning root of 
the Mupazupazu tree. 

{e) Diseases of the A limentary System 

Ikupameno is an affection of the gums. An effective remedy, 
the natives say, is a decoction made from the root of the 
Mutimbahula tree, used as a mouth-wash. Also bark of the 
Shitantasokwe tree is put in hot water and rubbed on the gums. 


Chitehi is a painful affection in the inguinal region of the 
abdomen. Treatment : take a calabash that has held fat, break 
and burn it, then rub some of the ash over the place. 

Impika : colic pains with vomiting. Treatment : take the 
tags of a dressed skin, soak them in water, and give the water 
to the patient to drink. 

Chihmgiila : acute indigestion, with pain in the epigastrium, 
described as "a knife piercing the heart," accompanied by 
nausea, and caused by errors in diet. It is treated by giving 
the patient water to drink in which some ash from the fireplace 
has been soaked. Or wood-ash is put on the tongue and 

Mwifu (" in the stomach ") : pains in the abdomen. Treat- 
ment : chew some leaves of the Sliichisu bush and swallow the 

Chimhalamhala : sores in the mouth of a sucking cliild ; 
thrush. A child suffering with this is put on a youngster's back, 
and with other children they go round the village, singing and 
eating a cooked mixture of different kinds of grain and beans 
and nuts. This is said to be very effective in driving away the 

Mukamn : a periodical swelling in the right side of the 
abdomen. Treatment : cook a root of the Mufufuma tree in 
porridge. When the porridge has been eaten, the fragments of 
roots are put in water, and it is drunk. 

Tiikoto : sore throat. Roots of the Shikutwe bush are 
boiled and the water drunk. 

Nanundwe is diarrhoea and general debility in children. The 
skin is said to peel off. 

Chimiongela : colic. Leaves of the Mulama tree are chewed 
and the juice swallowed. 

Chifimdo : a swelling in the cheek, said to be caused by 
jumping over a chifundululo , a mark round a field, and stealing. 
Roots of the Mupazupazu tree are cooked and rubbed on the 

Lusiihdu : severe diarrhoea. Roots of the Muzhula tree 
are cooked in bread and eaten. 

Tupopo : quinsy. Leaves of the Mundambi bush are 
boiled and the decoction drunk hot. 

Chipilwe : a disease of the rectum in which the patient 
loses control of his motions. Medicine is known, but not 
to us. The patient is stood on his head and the medicine 
poured in. 

Chakwiwe : diarrhoea with vomiting. I eaves of the Indu- 
lulu and Shishambwalwala bushes are soaked and the water 


(/) Diseases of the Urinary and Genital Systems 

Ishinga or Chishinga : haematuria, accompanied by severe 
pains in micturition. The flow stops, and with great pain some 
drops of a red fluid are passed. It is supposed to be infectious ; 
if you micturate where one has micturated who had this disease 
you may get it. Treatment : take the root of the Muleambezo 
tree and cook it in porridge. After the porridge is eaten the 
remaining root is put in a calabash with water and the water 
drunk at intervals. Also roots of the Katoze bush are cooked 
in porridge. Eleven other roots are known as cures of this 
disease, a decoction being made from them ; also leaves of 
Chibanze and Mululwe are smoked in a pipe. The head of the 
patient is lanced {lemhaula) and Sangalwembe root rubbed into 
the incisions. Sufferers from chishinga and mashingahotu 
(another disease) are not allowed to drink the strong funku 
beer ; it is taboo. 

Chihunii : pains in the lumbar region, may be lumbago or 
caused by kidney troubles. Treatment : scrape roots of the 
Sangalwembe tree, make numerous incisions in the skin on the 
loins, and rub in the scrapings. 

Manansa : venereal sores. Extremely common. The roots 
of the Chipezhabazhike and Mululwe are used as described 
under " Leprosy." 

Isonkola : a disease in men supposed to result from a pubic 
hair of a woman getting into the orifice of the penis. He gets 

Ihwalahivala and Chitupa are swellings in the scrotum. 

Mafuta {" fat "). If a boy breaks the taboo by eating fat 
he will have a fatty flux from the penis in consequence. The 
remedy is to eat roots of the Matungabambala tree cooked with 

{g) Diseases of Women 

Chishanshati : pains after childbirth. Treatment : drink a 
decoction from the root of the Itende tree. 

Chipelwe : also pains after childbirth, but different from the 
above. Treatment : hufu hwehwe (" stone-dust ") put in water and 
drunk is said to be efficacious. 

Masusti: a disease in young girls. They are forbidden to 
eat the masusu {" hairs " i.e. barbs) of fish ; if they eat them 
similar things grow in the vagina and obstruct it. It is a very 
painful thing ; they are unable to menstruate. They will not get 
married, as men are afraid of the disease. Treatment : roots 
of the Chiwayu bush are cooked in porridge, the remains of the 
roots are then soaked in water and the solution drunk. 


The disease mafuta, described above, also affects young girls 
who break the taboo. The same treatment is administered. 

Impwebwe : another painful affection succeeding childbirth. 
Treatment: take the bits of clouts of the hashikiimbadi ("men- 
struating women "), cut them up and soak them in water ; drink 
the solution, or burn them in a potsherd and inhale the smoke. 

Mabishi. — When a child dies, if the milk is not taken from 
her breasts the woman's legs swell. A drug is known which 
when rubbed on the legs brings out the mabishi (" milk "). Men 
under certain circumstances get this disease (see Vol. IL p. 44). 

Izuba (" the sun ") : the patient has " a white, shiny thing " 
at the vulva. The remedy is the milk of the Mulundungoma 

[h) Diseases of the Nervous System 

Impolokoso : earache, said to be caused by the bashimpulu- 
kutwi (see p. 224). Treatment : cook the roots of the Kama- 
kamala shrub and pour the decoction into the ears, 

Shibandilwabaiia : epilepsy in children. The Chinao, one 
of the small FeJidae, is given this long name, which means, " He 
that is not to be spoken of before children." This animal is said 
to be the mukamwini {" owner ") of the disease, as every month 
when the moon is dark it falls into fits. At the same time those 
with this disease will behave in the same way. If you kill and 
touch a Chinao and then embrace your child, it will get the 
disease. For the same reason you must avoid going amongst 
children when you are wearing the Chinao's skin. And if a child 
treads where a Chinao has passed, especially where it has mictu- 
rated, it will get the disease. If the child names the animal, or 
any one names it in the child's hearing, izhina dilenjila {" the 
name wiU enter ") and the child mil get fits. Treatment : the 
root of the Muchokachimongo bush is put into water to soak ; 
after a time the solution is poured into the patient's ears. This 
is more a preventive than a cure. Nothing is to be done while 
the fit is on. It is beheved that the child after passing water will 

Kalalu : lunacy. It is said that some lunatics have a great 
disinclination to hght-coloured people ; to see them makes them 
furious. Lunatics are tied up to prevent their injuring them- 
selves or others. Roots of the Mundumba tree are cooked 
and the decoction poured into the patient's ears, as a sedative, 
when the fits are on. 

Mupuka : convulsions in young sucking children ; supposed 
to be caused by a mupnka coming from the mother's breast. 

Kanono : epilepsy, chizuminizha mwana ("'that which dries 
up a child "). This is said to be caused by the Chinao, and also 


by the Chikambwe, the blue jay. It is dangerous for children 
to see this bird ; by sitting on the roof of a hut in which a child 
is it causes the disease. Treatment : take leaves of the sensitive 
plant called Kadikumbati, a feather of the blue jay, and a 
bit of the skin of the Chinao ; burn them together and rub the 
ash on the child. 

Liishingd : toothache, neuralgia. Treatment : roots of the 
Lutende bush are soaked in water and warmed on the fire ; the 
decoction is applied hot, the patient holding it in his mouth till 
cold, and then renewing it. The bark of the Namuzungula and 
Muvhungu trees is used in the same way. 

{i) Diseases of the Skin 

Kandolfl. — If the milky juice of this kind of sweet potato 
gets on the skin in which a child is carried, it wiU produce a 
pustular affection on the child's skin. Treatment : take dung 
of the hyena, powder it, and sprinkle it on the sores. 

Chinzovwe : sores on the under side of the thigh. Treatment : 
roots of the Kalutenta bush are taken and scraped ; the fine 
dust is then sprinkled on the sores. 

Btme : a painful affection in the feet said to be produced 
by treading upon cattle-dung or other filth. The feet swell, 
the patient scratches, but cannot sleep for the pain. Treatment : 
Miseza are burnt in the fire and then rubbed on the feet and 
between the toes. 

Kanamalumhe : painful blisters full of a clear fluid. Treat- 
ment : do not lance the bHsters for fear of causing ulcers, but 
rub them with chishila {" ochre ") and they will break. Also take 
the leaves of the Mutubetube, whitethorn tree, and foment the 
sores with them. 

Chibondo are suppurating sores which attack the inside 
surfaces of skin in contact. Treatment : roots of the water-hly 
are burnt, the ashes mixed with fat and rubbed on the sores. 

Maftttamahi : a rash on the face and chest. It is said that 
if not quickly cured leprosy follows. Treatment : scrapings of 
a root of the Bukuzu (wild fig tree) are put in water and rubbed 
on the sores. 

Chibala : ulcers on the buttocks, said by some to be caused 
by sitting on the ground where women have been stamping grain 
in the mortars. The name is applied also to any ulcer of long 
standing. Treatment : strip the integument off the roots of the 
Muchokachinongo bush, put it into hot water, and then apply 
it to the sores. 

Mupuka : sores on woman's breast and also on buttocks of 
children. Treatment : leaves of the Mukomba tree are taken 

CH. X 


and either soaked in hot water and apphed to the ulcers, or are 
dried, powdered, and sprinkled on the ulcers. 

Inscfu : swellings such as wens on the head and goitre are 
so called. It is believed that meat of eland {muscfn), if distributed 
by you to a person and he is discontented with the size of his 
portion, but does not speak out, will cause this complaint 
not in the grumbler but in his child or relation. Treatment : 
scrape the root of the Mufumu tree, lance the insefu, and rub in 
the scrapings. (This cannot always be effectual, for we have 
seen people with these swellings for year after year, and they 
are not cured. Perhaps, however, they do not know of the cure.) 

Chiloa : an itching rash. Treatment : scrape roots of the 
Sangalwembe tree, mix the scrapings with fat and rub into 
the rash. 

Chizengele : a rash something like chiloa on the face and 
body. Treatment : take leaves of the Mufumbo tree, bruise 
them in a mortar, dip them in water, and rub on the rash. 

Insokelela : sty on the eyelid. Treatment : soak roots of 
the Infwi bush in water and bathe the eye with the solution. 

Inkungwe : the name of this fish is applied to certain ulcers 
on the buttocks of children, supposed to be caused by their 
brealdng the taboo by eating its flesh. Treatment : roots of the 
Mutungabambala tree are scraped, put into water, and the 
decoction applied to the ulcers. 

Mamhungit : a disease that attacks the soles of the feet — 
something like a tumour bursting through the skin. Treatment : 
the brains of a hare are burnt in a potsherd over the fire, the 
ashes are then mixed with fat and applied. 

Bwele : scabies. Treatment : the flowers of the reed are 
burnt, the ashes mixed with fat and rubbed in. 

Bayubayu : sores all over the body, said to be caused by 
dirt. Treatment : roots of the Kaluya bush are scraped, the 
scrapings mixed with fat and applied. 

Impuu : sores occurring on the shins. They are lanced 
and salt rubbed in. 

Intantamitkoa (" it climbs the clan ") : similar to impuu 
but found all over the body. So called because it goes from 
relative to relative. Treatment is the same as for impuu. 

Shiluhidila : an erythema in circular patches on different 
parts of the body ; said to be caused by the spider of the same 
name. Treatment : roots of the Mudimbula tree are scraped, the 
scrapings put in water and applied. 

Tuzukuzhi : a split condition of the margins of the skin 
around the nailsi Treatment : your cousin, the child of your 
father's sister, is to come and take away one piece with his finger- 
nail and you will be cured. 

VOL. 1 R 


Chisubu : a poisoned arm. The arm swells and is hard and 
hot ; it breaks, and a lot of pus comes out. Treatment : 
twigs of the Mwande tree are made into an inkata (" coil "), 
dipped into hot water and applied again and again to the arm. 

Manga : a condition of the heels in which the thick leather- 
like skin is all cleft and split. Treatment : castor oil seeds 
(Mabonontelemba) are burnt in a potsherd and the ash applied. 
They also use hare's brains for the same purpose. 

Mafuhikila : these are sores made intentionally upon them- 
selves by children. The youngsters take a piece of cotton 
{hutongi), and after moistening a spot on the arm, light the cotton 
and put it burning on the place. This is done again and again 
all up the arm. They do this because they are told that if they 
do not, when they die Leza will give them flies to eat and nothing 
more. Children will in play count up these scars, saying, 
" Chechi nchichangu, chechi ncha Leza " (" This is mine, . . . this 
is Leza's "). The last one is ncha mwinakwe Leza (" Leza's 
wife's "). After burning the places they put lizard's dung on to 
heal the wounds. 

Chisuhi : a rash that follows shaving. Treatment : leaves 
of the Mungunya bush are bruised in a mortar, put in water and 
rubbed over the rash. 

Infula : pimples on the face. They are pressed out. 

Museza : a wart. They are cut off with the sharp rind of 
the maize stalk. 

Bulangulangii : a rash on the body. Treatment : roots of 
the Mumbala bush are taken, peeled, and put in water, and then 
rubbed over the rash. 

Mabambu : an abrasion in the crutch, caused by the surfaces 
of the skin rubbing against each other. Treatment : Lukumba 
is a mixture of different leaves, bruised up together and dried. 
The resulting powder is fine with a nice scent. This is sprinkled 
on the abrasion. 

Chimbalamhala : a skin disease in small children. To cure 
it they cook a mixture of maize, nuts, and macheme, adding water 
to thin it. They then take the child to the cross-roads, wash him 
in the mixture, and run away with him swiftly. By so doing 
they leave the disease behind them. 

Kufumnka : of the patient they say wafumtikwa. This is 
vesicles on the skin, full of fluid and very irritating. The treat- 
ment consists in rubbing the skin with the fur of a genet. 

Chimamanzuki : sores on the leg. They take the head of the 
mubondo (the barbel fish), cook it, and rub the fat on the sores. 

Imbale : scorched shins caused by sitting too near the fire. 
Treatment : leaves of the Mukunku tree are crushed and used to 
foment the shins. 


lute : boil, abscess. Roots of the Muwi tree are cooked 
and the fluid added to ibwantu (Hght beer) ; the abscess is fomented 
with this. They also take leaves of the Mungashia tree, chew 
them, and put them over the abscess to make it burst. 

{k) Various other Diseases 

Iiindu : a chigoe. This insect has found its way in late years 
to the Ba-ila from the west coast, where it appeared about 1872 
from the West Indies. Its scientific name is Dermatophilus 
penetrans. The Ba-ila use leaves of the Mubangalala bush to 
foment the sore ; and nicotine is put into the wound. 

Kalangati : tongue-tiedness. The cord is cut with a burnt-out 
piece of charcoal {inshimbi). 

Inshikila : hiccough. A small quantity of wood-ash is 
swallowed, or earth from a mole-hill (itumbo) is put in water 
and drunk. 

Mtikuhila : enlarged inguinal glands. They know it is 
caused by some disease in the lower limb. Treatment : you look 
for an old tumble-down house {chilu) and take a lump of clay 
from it ; this you put on a potsherd on the fire, and when hot 
appl}^ it to the swellings. 

Inshingo : stiff neck. Treatment : look for grass that is 
gro\ving in the hollow of a tree, cook it in water, and apply it 
hot to the neck. 

Kachembele : cramp in the muscles of the feet caused by 
sitting on the heels too long. The foot is beaten sharply with 
the fist. 

Mnkoshi : pain in the muscles of the nape of the neck. 
Look for water out of the hollow of a tree, heat it, and apply to 
the muscles and massage them. 

Musana : pains in the muscles of the back. Roots of the 
Ikolankuni tree are cooked with porridge and eaten. 

Menso : sore eyes. Treatment : some of the inner bark of 
the Mutungabambala tree is taken and soaked in water ; after 
a time the patient holds his eyes, open, in the solution. Also 
leaves and roots of the Mubangalala tree are put in water and 
the eyes washed in the solution. 

Liipwe : an affection of the eyelids, destroying the lashes. 
Treatment : bark of the Mulombe tree is cooked and the eyes 
steamed in the vapour ; when cold the decoction is used as an 
eye-wash. For sore eyes, a piece of copper {muknha) is tied over 
them. Filings of the same are used to put on ulcers. 

Luvhiimwe : non-closing of the fontanelle (see Vol. II. p. 11). 
Treatment : roots of the Kamampa bush are scraped, mixed with 
fat, and rubbed on the head. This is not a cure but a preventive. 


used with all children ; if they get the disease they will surely 

4. The Causes of Disease 

We do not pretend to have exhausted the list of diseases 
and their treatment ; but we have, perhaps, enumerated 
sufficient for our purpose, which is to illustrate the Ba-iia 
theories of disease and their methods of dealing with it. 

We may now summarise what we have learnt in the 
preceding section as to their beliefs about the causes of 

It will be noticed that disease is regarded as something 
almost material which can be passed from one person to 
another and got rid of by washing or other means. 

Some diseases come through contact, more or less 
intimate, with certain dangerous things : things dangerous 
because of some maleficent quality inherent in them. In 
some cases there is no actual contact, rather actio in distans. 
Such things are : [a) animals, e.g. the Chinao and Chikambwe ; 
[h) dirt ; (c) menstruous women ; {d) a foetus. 

Disease is caused also by witchcraft. There need not 
be any direct contact : the warlock can harm his victim 
from a distance. 

Other disease is caused by breaking a taboo. It is as if 
the act, e.g. of eating something forbidden, releases some 
maleficent energy which afflicts the culprit. 

This applies not only to actions that are specifically 
tonda ("taboo "), but also to such things as jealousy, false 
swearing, trespassing, discontent. The bad action has 
material consequences. 

Other diseases are put down to such natural causes as 
exposure to the sun. 

Then again there are the hapuka. 

And there are the ghosts of once living men. Upon this 
cause of disease we might enlarge considerably, but the 
subject will meet us again later. Many baffling complaints 
are ascribed to these agents. We remember one man who 
informed us that he had a ghost in his ear and desired us 
to use our syringe to pump it out. Another with a swollen 
head explained it as due to a dead man who had breathed 

CH. X 


upon him. As we shall see, many sicknesses and deaths are 
ascribed to the direct action of the ancestral spirits who are 
offended by neglect. Delirium is supposed to be caused by 
ghosts [basangushi) speaking inside. If the patient dies, 
they say the basangushi have taken him away. 

Some diseases, again, are ascribed to Leza (God). This 
is especially the case with virulent disease and plagues. 

5. Snake-bites, etc. 

There are several kinds of poisonous snakes in the country, 
and one frequently hears of people being bitten, and some- 
times of their dying as a result. The Ba-ila claim to have 
several efficacious remedies for snake bites, and there are 
doctors with the reputation of being able not only to cure 
but also to immunise themselves and others. From three 
of these doctors we have derived much information as to 
their practices. 

They recognise the importance of treating the patient 
immediately after he is bitten. It is not always possible 
to do this, as the man may be in the bush some distance 
from the village ; but his companions get him to the doctor 
as quickly as they can. If it has not already been done, the 
doctor at once ties a cord tightly above the wound. The 
bites are generally in the hand, or in the foot ; many 
instances of the former happen to women as they are clear- 
ing away grass with their hoes. The doctor then proceeds 
to treat the patient with drugs. One of these is the root of 
the Mompelempempe bush. The long thin root is taken 
and rubbed into the wound and above it ; portions of the 
root are broken up, put on a potsherd over a fire, and the 
wound smoked in the fumes. The root and leaves of the 
Muntamba tree are also used in the same way. Leaves of 
the Mubangalala tree are chewed and rubbed into the 
wound. Another remedy is the root of the Mungomba 
bush, called also Luminanzoka, which is shredded, soaked 
in hot water, and used to foment the wound. It is also 
burnt in a potsherd and the wound smoked in the fumes. 

These drugs are said to extract the poison, or, as the 
natives say, " to take out the teeth." After one of the 


drugs has been used in this way the patient is given an 
emetic made from the Musale tree. 

There are people who have musamo for snake-bites 
which they wear around the neck. It is a small black 
object, neatly covered, perhaps, with beads ; if the man is 
bitten he takes it off and rubs it into the wound. The drug 
is the black root of the Muma tree. 

There is a snake, Shimakoma, the African cobra, which 
has the disagreeable habit of " spitting " at a person who 
approaches it, and often succeeds in projecting its poison 
with great precision into the eye. The vitahty of this snake 
is astonishing. A friend of the writers, afterwards un- 
fortunately killed by a buffalo, shot one of these snakes 
in his house ; after the brute was shattered it spat at him 
from five or six yards away and the poison lodged in his eye. 
If we mention a similar experience which one of us had it is 
to give a testimony to the knowledge of the native doctors. 
Bending over his tool-chest one day in search of a tool, 
one of us came within a foot or two of a Shimakoma lying 
curled up behind the box. Immediately there was a hiss 
and the impact of something in the eye. Up till then we 
had been somewhat sceptical of the native stories of this 
snake's powers. When the native doctor, hastily summoned 
by a servant without his master's knowledge, arrived, he 
found his patient rolling about in great agony. He brought 
some leaves and twigs of the Kabwengwe bush, which he 
soaked in warm water, and rubbed round the outside of the 
eye ; finally, he blew with his mouth into the eye itself. 
Whatever the effect of the last operation may have been, 
the writer knows that almost instantaneously he got relief ; 
the eye, which had been dry and hot, at once began to water 
profusely, the inflammation subsided, and the pain abated. 
The leaves of the Mompelempempe bush are also used in 
such a case, being soaked in water and some of the decoction 
squeezed into the eye. 

It is very difficult to ascertain whether the firm behef of 
the natives in the efficacy of these drugs is justified when 
a person is actually bitten by a snake. Undoubtedly 
people are bitten by dangerous snakes such as the puff- 
adder (Chipile) ; they swell and show other symptoms of 


poisoning ; and it is equally certain that after being treated 
with these drugs they recover. Whether they would have 
recovered without this treatment — either because the poison 
was attenuate or did not properly enter the system — is 
just the point we cannot satisfy ourselves about. We 
have known of people dying when they have not been 

One thing that arouses some suspicion as to the drugs 
is the claim made by the doctors to use them prophylactic- 
ally. They say that if you bathe yourself in the fumes of 
the Mompelempempe no snake will bite you, but will run 
away at your approach ; and that if you chew the Muntamba 
leaves and rub your hands with the juice you can lay hold 
of any snake without danger. Both these drugs have a 
pungent odour and may possibly have some effect upon a 
snake, but we have not put it to the test ourselves, nor 
have we seen a man really in the act of doing so. 

A man named Munyuni, well known to us, is one of the 
doctors famed for his snake cures. He is in the habit of 
keeping snakes in his hut. We begged him one day to give 
us an exhibition, and his reply was that at the moment 
he had not a snake in his possession. However, the same 
day his wife had noticed a snake enter a hole and had 
covered it over to prevent its escape. On returning home 
and learning this he went and pulled it out of the hole, 
extracted its fangs, and brought it to us in a bag. It was 
a Munkanga — a green Mamba — about four feet long. The 
snake was very much alive ; on being taken out of the bag it 
tried to escape, but he easily caught it ; when he stroked its 
head it became quite quiescent and la}^ as if dazed. Munyuni 
had his two children with him, youngsters about nine and 
seven years of age, and they played with the snake, opening 
its mouth and putting its tail into it without exhibiting the 
slightest nervousness. Their father said they were immune. 
The fangless snake was, of course, harmless. Munyuni let 
us into many of the secrets of his trade. He said that he 
was doctored by his father, just as he has doctored his own 
children. The process is to take a snake, extract the fangs, 
cut off the tip of its tail {luminzo), then take a root of the 
Mushikadilo tree and the root of the Mutumbulwa tree, 


grind them all up together, cut a deep gash between the 
big toe and the next of each foot, and between the thumb 
and forefinger of each hand, and rub the substance in. 
This operation must be repeated at intervals of several 
years. To take out the fangs, a man chews leaves of the 
Mushikadilo tree and spits the juice into the snake's mouth. 
This makes it stupid [wedimhusha) . He then inserts his 
fingers and wrenches out the fangs. 

Munyuni carries with him also a string made up of two 
impindo (" long fibres ") of the Mutumbulwa tree in readiness 
for any case that may come along. As soon as he sees 
the patient he ties this cord tightly above the wound. 
He then lights a fire and puts the wounded limb very close 
to it ; he throws the medicines on to the fire and thoroughly 
smokes the wound. Then he makes a decoction of these 
two medicines and gives it warm to the patient to drink. 
This is supposed to drive out the snake's bulovhu ( = buvhuo, 
the poison or anger) from the body. 

A case had recently occurred near by of a young man 
who had gone out into the forest, chased a little rodent, 
and plunged his hand into a hole where he supposed it to 
have taken refuge. But some poisonous snake was in the 
hole and bit him on the hand. His companions took him 
home, but it was a long way, and before they reached 
the village he was unconscious ; he died within three hours 
of being bitten. We mentioned this case to Munyuni, 
and he claimed that if he had been sent for he could have 
cured the man even after he was unconscious. He would 
have erected a platform over a fire, into which he would 
have thrown his medicines. He would have taken the 
Mushikadilo leaves, chewed them, and spat them into the 
man's ears, nose, and anus. He would have had boys 
hold him on the platform and thoroughly smoke him in 
the fumes. The man would have recovered consciousness 
and been cured. We should like to have seen it done. 

Another doctor told us of his method of inoculating. 
He begins with a young lad. He collects as many heads as he 
can of various venomous snakes, desiccates them over a fire, 
and stands the lad in the fumes. Next day he makes in- 
cisions in the lad's hands, between thumb and forefinger, 


and rubs in some of the powder. This operation is repeated 
at intervals and the boy is said to grow up immune. 

6. The Use of Aphrodisiacs, etc. 

The Ba-ila use several aphrodisiacs, or love-philtres 
{(iefixiones) , but whether they are really efficacious we 
cannot say. We can only report what we have learnt 
from the doctors and others. 

When, they say, a man is in love with his wife and she 
rejects him [wazaza), in order to gain her affections he gets 
the root of the Mudimbula tree and scrapes it ; he takes 
also the feathers of the Inzhinge bird, burns them, mixes 
the ash with the scrapings, and conceals it all in a piece 
of liver. If she is at her honje, the woman's relations 
are prevailed upon to give her this liver to eat ; if she is 
at his place, the man manages with guile to get her to 
eat it. 

If a man wants to win the love of a woman, he takes 
the root of the Chikalamatanga bush and smokes it with 
tobacco in his pipe. While smoking he calls softly to her, 
or, if he is in company, he whispers inaudibly, " So-and-so, 
how I do love her ! Would that she might return my love ! " 
So on and so on. The effect is telepathic. She dreams 
of him, and in the morning, as she recalls her dreams, his 
image haunts her. She begins to think kindly of him. 
So the^natives say. 

There are also medicines which women drink or smoke 
to excite the passions of their lovers ; or a woman neglected 
by men will resort to these to attract a lover or a husband. 
There are drugs, of which we do not know the names, one 
to smoke and another to anoint the body with. As she 
smokes, the woman charges the drug, saying, " Uwe, musamo, 
ndakufweha miilomhwana akantwale (" O medicine, I smoke 
you in order that a man may marry me ! "). There is a 
charm named Mudidila carried by a man, and its effect 
upon a woman is that from the time she first sees him she 
weeps {dila), sajdng, " Would that that man would marry 
me." So, like Alphesiboeus, they try with magic rites to 
turn to fire the lover's coldness of mood. 


Another drug is the root of the Mubangalala tree, of 
which a decoction is drunk by a man who through age or 
other causes loses his virihty. Another aphrodisiac is got 
from the Ndale, a tree with a dark heart. The doctor cuts 
into the sides of it and takes out pieces, which are put 
into beer. The solution is said to have a powerful effect, so 
much as to keep the man restless and sleepless {wamufuhya 
hdo) . 

There are several apparently efficient abortifacients in 
use among these people. One is the leaves of a short bush 
named Kahulumushi. These are chewed by the woman. 
Another is made thus : the roots of the castor oil plant 
are put to soak together with the root of the Buchinga 
bush (which bears a red fruit). The woman drinks some 
of the warm decoction. 

These are used by girls ; by women who do not want 
to lose their husbands' attentions through being pregnant ; 
by women who through anger or dislike of their husbands 
do not want to bear children ; and by a woman who becomes 
pregnant when suckling a child. 

There are many drugs used in midwifery. One midwife 
who had been called into a case of protracted labour showed 
us seven drugs she used : they were to be pounded up and 
a decoction from them drunk warm. Leaves of the Kahulu- 
mushi are chewed and their juice swallowed. And there 
are others. 

7. Amulets and Talismans 

To what extent the misamo we have already enumerated 
are really of therapeutical value, or are only of magical 
effect, we do not presume to say, but we now go on to deal 
with others which may be specifically classed as charms : 
amulets and talismans. The difference between these we 
understand to be that talismans are used to bring good 
luck or to transmit qualities, while amulets are preventive 
in their action. The Ba-ila themselves draw such distinc- 
tions. The generic term musamo embraces all kinds of 
" medicines " for any purpose whatever ; and they are 
divided into these classes : 

I. Misamo budio : " medicines simply," i.e. drugs. 

CH. X 



2. Shinda [sing. Chinda): amulets. The root of the word 
is iiida, which as a verb {kwinda) means, " to work upon, 
apply a charm to " ; kwindauka, to do this repeatedly, 
or by a series of actions. Diinda, the reflexive form, means 

ritnto li. II'. Siiiith. 

Bracelets and Charm.s. 

to apply a charm to oneself, or to obtain a charm for 
one's own use ; and a person who has not as yet availed 
himself of this means of protection {utanakudiinda) is 
described as muntii budio (" a mere human being," i.e. he 
is deficient). 

3. Isamhwe or Insamhwe is a talisman, active in 


bringing to the possessor cholwe, i.e. luck, prosperity, good 
fortune, presumably by transferring to him the peculiar 
energies or qualities inherent in itself. The word is related 
to kusamha, to wash, bathe, and appears to mean etymo- 
logically" thatin which one is bathed." Good luck is always 
associated with cleanness, whiteness. The whitest thing 
they know, impemha (see p. 232), is a talisman smeared on 
their foreheads by hunters. In accordance with this idea 
are the sayings, ulasweya ankumu (" he is clean as to the fore- 
head," i.e. is fortunate) ; ulasweya mwitashi {" he is clean 
in the hand," i.e. is rich). On the other hand, of an unfor- 
tunate person they say ulashia munkumu {i.e. "he is black 
on the forehead "). 

4. Shinda may incidentally cause the death of people, 
but that is not primarily their object. There is another 
species of musamo, called inzuikizhi, whose function it is 
to kill and destroy. It is used by the warlocks and witches 
(see Vol. II. p. 96). 

There is another term, bwanga, applied to musamo, 
not to any particular kind, but is rather a general term, 
apparently descriptive of its mysterious action. The same 
root goes to form the name of the doctor, munganga. 

It is impossible to exaggerate the part which these 
misamo play in the life of the Ba-ila. It is not too much 
to say that apart from them it is impossible to understand 
any side of their life. They are regarded with an implicit 
trust that deserves to be called a religion : we speak of 
them here under the heading of " Leechcraft," but must 
return to them later when we deal with religion. 

Their use constitutes a system of insurance against 
the ills and calamities of life. Instead of paying an insur- 
ance premium as we do, and thus robbing burglary, acci- 
dent, fire, and even death of some of their terrors, the Ba-ila 
invest in powerful charms, which in their belief will keep 
them free from violence, robbery, etc. etc. ; and if not 
altogether from death at least will postpone it, and enable 
them to determine their mode of life beyond the grave. 

Almost every Mwila you meet wears one or more of 
these charms round his neck or on his arm or head. They 
are carried in different ways. 



A small horn, such as that of a Duiker, is filled with the 
medicine, and worn round the neck ; this is called a 
lusengo. A mufiiko is a small bag made of snake-skin, 
and worn in the same way. An armlet is made of the skin 
of the iguana (Nabulwe) and filled with drugs. Some 
medicines are not worn but suspended in the hut, or, more 
often, under the eaves. One of our friends among the chiefs 
] has the following suspended thus on his verandah : medi- 
cine to keep his people together, so that they may not 
stray ; medicine to prevent his cattle from being eaten 
by crocodiles ; medicine to increase the number of his 
cattle ; medicine to give his hunting dogs speed. Another 
friend of ours, a minor chief, has a miniature bow and 
arrows hanging in his hut ; when we asked him about it 
he explained that he shot these arrows in various directions 
to induce people to come from those quarters to swell 
the numbers of his own adherents, which indeed were 

We ourselves have been presented at various times 
with medicines in the shape of bracelets, etc., by friends 
anxious for our welfare. One old chief transferred from 
his arm to ours an armlet of Nabulwe skin, containing, 
he said, bits of the pounded roots of the Kafwebwe, Mulota, 
and Muhumbane bushes — also the remains of any insect 
the doctor saw running about him just as he was sewing 
them up — which was a sure preventive of all kinds of 
witchcraft. The composition of this, he informed us, was 
revealed to him in a dream by a Musangushi. On another 
occasion he quietly slipped into our hand a similar armlet 
that we were to press to our lips whenever we were about 
to engage in any business, and it would inevitably ensure 
our bringing off a favourable bargain. He gave us another 
armlet which he said was medicine to ensure that every- 
body would love us : he had bought the secret for ten head 
of cattle. 

But they are not all carried ; many are eaten, or used 
as washes, A man who gets a charm is said to "eat " it 
{wachidya) ; but it does not necessarily mean that he con- 
sumes it by the mouth, but simply that he has it and its 
qualities are available for him. And not only are there 


personal charms of this kind, but every village is protected 
by its own. There are also communal charms. Mr. Dale 
when engaged in ploughing on his farm was one day 
desirous of felling a tree that obstructed his work ; but 
every one of his men, usually so obedient, absolutely refused 
to touch it, and he had to start felling it himself. After 
he had chopped a few strokes, they took the axe from him 
and completed the job. The curse had now been trans- 
ferred to him, and they were free to cut. It appeared that 
some ten or fifteen years before, at the time of an invasion, 
a powerful musamo had been deposited in the tree to ensure 
the enemies of the community becoming lame and helpless ; 
and to this musamo was attached a curse against any one 
molesting the tree. 

It is not possible always to discriminate accurately 
between amulets and talismans ; it is evident that a charm 
which protects may be also a talisman in the sense that 
thereby it brings its owner prosperity. The charms may 
have the character of both chinda and isamhwe. We have, 
therefore, in our description not adhered to this classifica- 
tion, but rather grouped them in regard to the objects 
to be attained by their use. 

As will be seen in reading this description, there is 
a close connection between the function of the charm and 
its name. Sometimes the name describes some quality 
inherent, or supposed to be inherent, in the thing itself, 
and the effect is easily deduced from it. For example, the 
violet-tree (called Mufufuma) has roots which are swollen 
{fufumuka), and the medical effect of them used as a drug 
is to cause swelling. Such seems to be actually its effect. 
It is used by boys to cause their members to grow, and we 
know one boy who nearly died of the effects, so great and 
painful were they. By analogy, therefore, the use of the 
drug is extended, so that children are bathed in a decoction 
made of the roots in order to promote their growth. The 
connection between the name and the effects of a drug cannot 
always be traced so clearly as in this case. Often the con- 
nection seems to be in sound only, e.g. between the name 
of the bird Kashise and the effect produced by the charm so 
named, i.e. to shishulula the family of a person (see p. 264). 


Perhaps some habit of the bird has suggested the analogy. 
Whether the name of the bird has been derived from the 
effect desired from the charm, or the effect deduced from 
the bird's name is not clear. The principles of sympathetic 
magic — that like produces like, or that an effect resembles 
its cause — are well illustrated by these charms. But it must 
be remembered we are dealing with things that are real to the 
Ba-ila. There is power in these things which actually works 
to procure the ends. 

Almost invariably these charms have taboos associated 
with them : things which the doctor forbids his patient to 
do, lest he should yaya chinda (" kill the charm "). Before 
doctoring the patient the doctor asks him : " Will you be 
able to follow the practices associated with it ? " and unless 
he undertakes to do so will not proceed. Some of these 
prohibitions are understandable on the principles of sym- 
pathetic magic, e.g. those against eating the Pallah {Nanzeli), 
for if you eat it your luck will zelauka (" disappear ") ; the 
Duiker {Nakasha), for it would forbid {kasha) your success ; 
and the Oribi {Nakasotekela), for it would cause your fortune 
to spring away [sotekela). 

It is easy to understand, too, why imbwila, the ground- 
pea, is taboo to those who have misamo ya Leza, i.e. charms 
to prevent rain from falling. These peas are hard, and 
poured into a pot make a rattling sound like distant thunder ; 
thunder brings rain, and so the charm is rendered of no avail. 

But other prohibitions are not so easy of explanation. 
Why, e.g., is a man with womhidi medicine not to allow 
another to carry a pot behind his back ? And when he is 
in a hut and a pot is passed in, why must he not take hold 
of it but only shove it along the ground ^ And why must 
a lukwi not be brought into a hut where he is ? And if it is, 
why must he take it between his teeth, not in his fingers, 
to return it to the person who brought it ? And why, when 
eating milk-bread, must he be scrupulous in taking the first 
two spoonfuls in his left hand and the third in his right ? 
Perhaps the only reason is to impress appropriate thoughts 
on the patient's mind. 

One method of self-protection is, by means of a powerful 
charm, to put one's life into a hiding-place, whether into 


another person, or into some object. This is kudishita, to 
shield, protect, oneself. One chief, Mungaila, confided to us 
once that his life was hidden in the needle on a friend's 
head : he was careful not to say which friend. Another 
told us that his was in a friend's finger-nail. One of the 
doctors gave us the following description of this part of his 
practice. The patient comes to him and says : " Ndeza 
kulanga mwinzohola luseha Iwangu, ndaamha unkwateiikwate " 
("I am come to seek a place wherein to keep my body, I 
mean that you should safeguard me ") . If the doctor under- 
takes the case, the patient produces a hoe as a preliminary 
fee. The doctor then prepares the misamo, and charms 
him {wamwinda) by giving him some to eat in porridge and 
others to rub on his body. And the doctor asks : " Where 
is it you wish to hide ? Perhaps in the eye of some person ? ' ' 
" Yes, I wish to hide in somebody's eye." " What person } " 
The patient thinks over the names of his relatives, and 
rejecting them says : "I would hide in the eye of my 
servant." The doctor agrees, and charms him accordingly, 
giving him all the medicines necessary to enter his servant's 
eye, whether it be man or woman. So wenjila niomo 
ulazuha momo mudinso ("he enters and hides there in the 
eye "). He does not make the fact known to the servant, 
but keeps the knowledge to himself. He remains in the 
eye all the days of his life. Should he fall sick he tells his 
chief wife : " Know, in case I should die, that I had certain 
medicines from So-and-so." This is because of the claims 
that the doctor will make against his estate ; but even to 
his wife he does not tell that he is in any one's eye. Should 
he die, at the same moment that servant of his has his eye 
pierced {ulatuluka dinso), that is, by his master coming out 
of it. Then seeing the man's eye burst, people know where 
the master lay hidden. And the converse is also true ; 
should the servant's eye be destroyed, the master would die. 
Other people are doctored so that they may hide [zuba) in a 
palm-tree. When such a one dies, the palm falls ; and should 
the palm fall first (a very unlikely event), the man would 
die. If he were not sick at the time, he would die suddenly 
{ulaanzfika budio). Others eat medicine for taking up their 
abode (kukala) in a thorn tree [mwihunga). On the death 


of such a person the tree breaks and fahs, and the man comes 
out of it [wavhwa mo). Others get medicines to enable 
them to hide {ziiha) in a cow or an ox. When the beast dies, 
the person " takes away his heart " [wakusha mozo) and 
dies also. Then people know that he had hidden in the 
beast. So was King Nisus's Hfe bound up with the brilHant 
purple lock on his head, which his daughter Scylla stole 
and treacherously handed to her father's foe, saying : 

Cape pignus amoris 
purpureum crinem nee me nunc tradere crinem, 
sed patrium tibi crede caput ! 

And so was Meleager's Hfe bound up with the billet of wood 
which, wishing to avenge her brother's death, his mother 
threw into the fire, and as it burned, so did the absent 
Meleager burn with those flames, and his spirit gradually 
slipped away as the billet was reduced to white ashes. 

This same doctor went on to tell us of another kind of 
fnedicine which is called owelmnhu, taken to produce the 
effect in another person of kulitmbvizhiwa. Kulumbula is 
used ordinarily for " to pay tribute, tax " ; lumbuzha, the 
active form ("to cause to pay tribute, to levy a tax "), is 
used also of a person doing something in order thereby to 
put another in such a position that he is compelled to do 
something similar. The word is used in this sense in law- 
suits ; here it signifies that a man takes medicine in order 
that somebody else shall die at the same time that he 
dies, in other words, that he shall hve as long as the other, 
who is perhaps younger. The doctor thus describes the 
process : A person eats medicine to lumbuzha another, 
whether his mother or brother or some one else, so that on 
the day he dies the other may die too. The doctor says : 
" Who is it that you wish to die with ? " He chooses the 
one. The doctor does not at once give him the medicines, 
but considers him quietly to see whether he is sincere 
{abone na udishinizhe) ; and if he finds him so administers 
the drugs. He goes on living, does that man, and also 
he who is lumbuzha' d. But the day that the patient begins 
to be sick with a mortal disease, the other person who was 
put into the medicine and so lumbuzha'd gets sick also [aze 

voi. I s 


wezo owakahikwa u musamo owakalumbuzhiwa). When the 
one approaches death the other does the same : when one 
dies, the other dies. When this happens people know that 
they had one charm {hakadya chinda chomwi). 

He does not mean that there was any agreement between 
them : the victimised person knows nothing of what was 
done ; but that the charm has bound them together so 
closely that the one's life goes to nourish the other's. 

This ilumhu medicine may be taken to produce a different 
effect. " He takes it with the intention that when he is 
sick and likely to die, his child or another member of the 
family shall die and he live. And so it happens, until in 
the end when nobody is left for him to lumbuzha, he himself 
dies." In these instances the musamo evidently enables the 
owner to feed, vampire-like, on the life-substance of others : 
their life nourishes his, so that they die and he lives. 

Not only may a man live at the expense of others, but 
he may also by means of musamo draw life from trees. 
Once when Sezongo II. was very ill the doctor had men climb 
a Butaba tree, cut a thick branch and carry it, taking care 
not to allow it to touch the ground, to the chief's hut and 
plant it there. At the foot of the branch the doctor went 
through some incantations. The Butaba is a tree full of 
vitality ; a stick from it readily takes root and grows : 
some of its vitality by means of the doctor's magic passed 
into Sezongo and he recovered. The tree then planted is 
still pointed out. 

There is another musamo named wahumi (" life 
medicine "), reputed to be very ancient ; it is indeed that 
mentioned in Vol. II. p. 102 as having been given in the be- 
ginning by Leza to men to enable them to propagate their 
species. There are certain taboos associated with this charm. 
None of the owner's people may strike a stone ; when cook- 
ing they must not leave a spoon sticking in the pot ; when 
offering him food they must not push the pot along the 
ground (if they do a lion will drag him along) ; they 
must not empty out a pot (if they do, his life will 
be emptied out). Any one of these transgressions will 
vhumununa him, i.e. rob the charm of its virtue. We first 
got to know of this charm through a case in court. The 


wife of a chief named Katumpa summoned him for beating 
her, and, in his defence, he said he had beaten her because 
she had struck a stone ! 

Another charm is named mongo : its purpose is to 
enable the owner to hve long [kuongola). Another, named 
inzhinge, is " eaten " by a man when he falls ill to ensure 
that he will not die within a certain specified time, say two 
years. The crocodile is said to owe its longevity to the 
large pebbles it swallows ; they are sometimes found in the 
stomach. So people get a charm named chiwena (crocodile) 
to enable them to swallow small stones {imbwehwe) and 
live long. 

There are numerous charms to ensure a man's well-being, 
and some of them act by causing an enemy to relent and 
stay his hand. Thus, if you have weshizhamozo (" that 
which blackens the heart"), any one wishing to do you 
harm v/ill become black-hearted, i.e. will relinquish his 
intention. Namwetelelwa causes an enemy as soon as he 
arrives in your presence to feel sorry for you {ulukuetelela) 
and change his mind. If you have the charm wa-kutahikwa- 
ku-mozo, your enemy on the point of doing you harm will 
remember that he too is a sinner {wadihonena kakwe) and 
will spare you. And, on the other hand, as you are likely 
to want to harm others, you fortify yourself against relenting 
by getting shichebukwa, which will enable you to keep up 
resentment against a person, when you might be inclined 
to look upon him with favour [kuchehuka). But should 
you have had a quarrel with him and he return home, 
sick unto death through your resentment and ill-treatment, 
then another charm called chipinduluzho would destroy your 
ill-feeling and restore him to health {pindulula). 

Other charms act on ill-wishers to do them harm. Mpilu 
will make any one turn back {pilula) who sets out to hurt 
you — he gets sick on- the road, or meets with an accident. 
Nakasha {" the preventer ") is a charm worn round the 
neck in a horn of the antelope of that name. Its use is thus 
described : " If it be a warlock or witch [mulozhi) who 
thinks of bewitching j^ou, his musamo turns upon himself 
[wamuzhokela) and kills him." Luhahankofu (" louse-itch ") 
ensures that any one who plans to lay hands upon you will 


be afflicted with an intolerable itching. If you have the 
charm shilandwa, any one who attempts to sue you [kulanda) 
will not live long or the goods he gets out of you will perish 
{taongola wafwa, na lubono ndwadiwa Iwazaia, Iwazhimina). 
Ngongoki (a name derived from that of a fabulous monster, 
said to have a high spine, bare of flesh) will make your 
enemy waste away to a skeleton ; nanundwe will make him 
as slow-footed as a chameleon {nanundwe). Everybody 
knows how the hippopotamus rises up out of the water. 
The Ba-ila call the a.ction fumpauka. If you have the charm 
named after that animal {chivhubwe) any one who fights you 
will have something terrible fumpauka in his body and be 
compelled to desist. 

There is a mysterious plant named Mukombokombo, the 
leaves of which do not shake in the wind, not even in the 
fiercest tempest, and which has the property of moving off 
suddenly and replanting itself miles away. A musamo 
from this tree will make your enemy kombauka, i.e. break 
all in pieces and disappear. Mutakwa will enable you to 
vomit any musamo that a warlock has, without your knowing 
it, put into your food. Dipakumtcma is one " that gives 
you to be silent." If you are at rest in your hut and some- 
body calls you it ensures that you will not answer him 
{kumuma). If he is a friend, well, he will understand ; 
if it be an enemy, well, he goes away and you escape from 

Another amulet named wakutadiatwa (" for not to be 
trodden on ") will cause any one treading in your footsteps 
to swell up, and, unless an antidote be administered, to die. 
To trace a person's footsteps is one way of bewitching him. 

Some talismans are specially useful to chiefs in that they 
tend to increase their following. One such talisman bears 
the name of mwino (" salt "), and the effect of it is to produce 
mwino-mwino in the owner, i.e. tastiness, winsomeness ; 
so that all may love him. There is a tree named Mumpangu, 
and it provides a medicine owakupangukilwa bantu, i.e. that 
will draw people from a distance ; they are compelled to 
come flocking, eager to become the subjects of the chief 
who has it. (The same medicine is used by a hunter to put 
in his game-pits and traps to draw the animals from afar.) 


There is another medicine named mulimdu used for the 
same purpose, i.e. that people may lundumuka (" flock ") to 
the owner ; and another, muyoho (name of a bamboo), that 
causes people to oboloka, gather together to him, and those 
who come to visit stay on permanently. 

A medicine to produce calmness and peace in one's life 
is named wetontozha. If you have it you rest tontola ne, 
tontolo, bitbona hudi itontozha menzhi (" quiet, oh, so quiet, 
like the calmness of still water "). 

A common charm for warding off lightning is a tortoise- 
shell hung up under the eaves. As the tortoise in its 
" house " is safe from the elements, so it will cause people 
to be. When people are afraid of lightning during a thunder- 
storm they take a piece of tortoise-shell and throw it on the 
fire and say : " Laha kabotu, twafwa bowa tu bazhike bako. 
Twakabomba (" Open thy mouth gently {i.e. lighten gently), 
we, thy slaves, are nervous. We are humble before thee "). 

There is a musamo to be obtained from the doctors 
which will give good luck in any way one wishes. It is 
called masamba (see p. 252). If a man wants very special 
luck, he not only gets the charm, but under the doctor's 
instructions he commits incest with his sister or daughter 
before starting on his undertaking. That is a very power- 
ful stimulus to the talisman. There are various taboos 
connected with the masamba. Thus during the month of 
Shimwenje (November, " beginning of the rains ") the man 
must refrain from having intercourse with his wife. If he 
neglects this he will become poor, and if any one through 
hatred plans his death he will not have the luck to escape. 
Even the girl-wife of a man, if she wishes to go home during 
this month, may not be forbidden. And all this month 
he may not shake his bed nor have it shaken by anybody, 
even if it be infested with vermin : nothing in the hut may 
be swept or shaken, for that would be equivalent to throwing 
away his luck. Again, if a man with masamba is away 
working he may not wash during the time. If he does he 
will tubuluka, i.e. the medicine will lose its properties and 
he will get small wages. Once again, he may not eat the 
flesh of the Kantanta (sable antelope). That animal is 
very dark ; they say the meat is dark also, and if he eats 


it inshi ilanmsliila (" the earth will be black to him "), all 
good luck blotted out. He must also refrain from eating 
of the small antelopes, Duiker, Oribi, and Pallah. These 
buck are hard to kill. People often spear them and yet 
they escape. To eat them would be to transfer to himself 
that quality. One would think this should be a good thing, 
for by eating them a man would be ensured escape from 
trouble. But the Ba-ila argue differently : for a buck to 
escape may be a good thing for the buck, but it is a bad 
thing for a hunter ; if he eats the flesh his luck will escape 
him just when he thinks he has secured what he desires. 

One class who specially need good luck are the hunters. 
As we have seen, most hunters use only spears, but around 
Nanzela many have old muzzle-loaders. At Nanzela we 
are told that when a hunter secures a gun he by no means 
trusts to his own skill in using it. Before he begins to shoot 
he takes it to the doctor, who gives him musamo with which 
to wash it. The doctor gives him directions and lays 
restrictions upon him : he may say, for example, " If you 
find game you must on no account shoot indiscriminately ; 
the only antelope you may shoot is the Hartebeest." He 
obeys, and brings down his quarry. Having carried it 
home he makes a little offering of bits of meat to his 
medicines ; and the doctor tells him, " You mustn't give 
the heart away to people, keep it ; the chest and the loins 
are yours." The heart is to be cooked at the sacred forked- 
stick (the Iwanga), and when ready he cuts it up and dis- 
tributes it among his particular friends. It is a sacrifice. 
Having eaten they wash hands and lips. The doctor further 
gives instructions for the safe keeping of his luck ; he warns 
him especially against allowing any shikumbadi {" menstruat- 
ing woman ") to enter the hut where the gun is, for she 
would inevitably render it useless. 

Another class that seeks medicine for good luck are the 
traders. Theirs is musamo wa bwendo (" trading medicine " ; 
kuenduka, "to go trading "). Before starting on his ex- 
pedition the trader places the receptacle before him and 
exhorts his medicine, saying : " May you help me to buy 
slaves, guns, cattle, blankets, whatever 1 want." Having 
done this he thinks, " I shall return having made good 

CH. X 


bargains." The doctor who gives him the medicine bids him 
beware especially of menstruating women ; warning him 
against allowing one of them to touch his food on the journey. 
He cautions him also not to have intercourse with women. 
To do this would be kusotoka Iwendo Iwakwe {" to jump 
over his journey"), i.e. destroy its luck. One of these 
medicines is named mbimbe and is worn in a goat's horn. 
Just as the bimbe hawk swoops down on its prey and rarely, 
if ever, misses, so this musamo will enable the trader to 
carry off good bargains. 

The Ba-ila will not eat rats, but if they find water in 
which a rat has died they will drink it, as they say it gives 
good- luck. 

To raise himself (kudibusha) above his fellow-villagers, 
a man secures the charm named chimbusha ; as a result, 
his neighbours sink {loba) and he alone flioats [webvika), and 
his name becomes famous. One means of getting rich is 
to have the charm liikunka, which will cause you to stumble 
upon {diknnka) an elephant, or a slave, or something else 
that will provide you with wealth. 

We have described in Chapter VIII. the doctoring of 
the warriors before and after war. 

Another musamo for warriors is the insect Injelele, one 
that darts rapidly over the surface of a pool or lake, so 
|-apidly that you can hardly follow its movements. This 
insect is eaten with food to render you invisible in battle. 

The skunk (Kanyimba) is a difficult creature to kill or 
catch, as when chased it jumps from side to side. A 
medicine is made from it to ensure one's safety in war ; 
he who has it becomes, like the skunk, a very difficult 

Similarly the quail (Inzhinge) on account of its ability 
to hide, is eaten to render a warrior indetectable. 

Another charm is named mulala, and its function is to 
enable the warrior (and also the hunter) to hit every time 
he throws his spear. 

If any one is inclined to rebel [knpapa) against his 
superiors, he can get a musamo named chipapa-cha-munkudi 
(" bit of an old calabash shell "), and he will be made 


Wanzhimina is a useful charm which protects you in a 
court of law, by causing your accusers to forget the charge 
brought against you : it fades away (kazhimina), whatever 
it may be. Another named mudimhula, while stimulating 
your own wits and enabling you to put your case well 
[kubosha mikanano), makes your opponents stupid [waba- 
dimbula) so that they lose their action. The same musamo 
is used to stupefy the ghost of a man you have killed so 
that it cannot do you harm. 

From this it is evident that misamo act not only on the 
living but on the dead. And a man at his own desire may 
be so doctored as to change his state in the next world. 
The charm will so act that when he dies he becomes a lion, 
or an eagle, or an itoshi, or an ant-hill. We deal with this 
more fully later. Such charms have the name wakudtsa- 
ngula (" musamo for transforming oneself "). Another charm 
W akfidifundula (" for shedding one's skin ") enables a man 
to turn himself into a lion or other beast. 

The witchcraft musamo (inzuikizhi) may be "eaten" 
by a person with the object of transforming himself after 
death into a jnutalu, a vengeful, destructive ghost, described 
as kayayabuseka ("one who goes killing and smiling"). 
His victims fall suddenly dead. The only thing to be done 
in such cases is to get the mudimbula medicine, and doctor 
the ghost, balamiUnda ku busangushi bwakwe {" they doctor 
the man in his ghostly state "). 

Men not disposed to allow their survivors to live peace- 
fully after they themselves are dead, procure certain charms 
to cause their unhappiness. One of them is named sho- 
mbololo {" the kudu "), and it makes people fight, commit 
suicide, be rebellious, and turn criminal. " That is how 
it is to-da}^ at Manimbwa," said our informant. " Whence 
all this upset since Sezongo's death ? Because that chief 
' ate ' shombololo medicine." 

Another man will " eat " the charm named after a small 
*red bird, kashise, and the result is that all his family are 
wiped out : they shishulula {" disappear") ; or the kamz&aya 
{" the disperser ") will ensure that all his property will 
disappear, that whoever takes his name will perish, that 
all his family will become extinct. 


Another man will have a charm named after the tortoise 
ifulwe) ; just as Fulwe suddenly withdraws his head, and 
turns from a living thing into what seems to be mere stone, 
so he, when perhaps there is nothing wrong with him, 
or very Httle, suddenly dies, leaving the people puzzled 
as to his disappearance. Wakufulaukwa hudio (" he just 
vanishes ! "). 

Another man, who perhaps has a horror of being buried, 
gets a charm which will ensure the people carrying out 
his last wishes to be laid, not in a grave, but on a high 
platform [luisanza) built of sticks. And another with a 
whim to be buried sitting up in the grave does the same. 
There is a charm named nakansakwe (a stork), which secures 
that when a man dies he remains to all appearance what 
he was in life. To look at him you would say he was alive, 
but he is dead. Another medicine named wakwadyamaila- 
kohili (" of eating grain twice ") enables a man after he is 
dead and buried to rise from the grave, go off to the village 
of the doctor from whom he got the charm, and there enjoy 
a second spell of life. 

Finalty, there is a charm named after a tree, mutesu, 
which will cause a great crowd to gather to a man's funeral 
[kutesauka), all feehng very sorry and weeping for him 

8. The Practitioners, {a) The Diviner 

Our final sections must be devoted to the two professions 
whose arts are of such vital importance in the life of the 
Ba-ila. The practitioners are of two kinds, the diviners 
and the doctors. 

To divine is kusonda ; the diviner is miisonzhi ; and the 
instrument with which he divines is chisondo. 

Although we speak of him in this chapter devoted to 
Leechcraft, his art takes a much wider sweep. He is essen- 
tially a revealer : things that are hidden from ordinary view 
he can discover and make known. Hence, he is called 
upon to find things that are lost, to detect thieves, to trace 
stra^dng cattle, to determine the identity of the child that 
is born, and so on. His importance in the present con- 


nection is that he is the diagnoser of disease. He reveals 
not only what the disease is, but also its cause, and often 
tells what the medicine is and from what doctor [munganga) 
it may be procured. He tells also whether the death was 
due to witchcraft or to the divine will, i.e. of Leza. 

There are several different ways of divining. We will 
describe those we have seen, and mention others. 

(i) Shimubi. — The Shimubi, the divining rod used by 
some practitioners, is a piece of wood i| inch thick, 
bow- shaped, with one end carved into the head of a Shima- 
koma snake, two eyes (represented by beads), mouth 
and all. 

The profession is handed down from older men to 
younger on payment of fees. One man we knew said he 
paid two impande shells. The older man takes the novice, 
cuts a slit in his hand, between the thumb and forefinger, 
and rubs in medicine ; he then puts the chisondo into his 
hand, places its nose over some smouldering herb in a 
potsherd and says an incantation, exhorting it to obey its 
new master. He then communicates to him the names and 
properties of various drugs and the new practitioner has 

If anything is lost, or if a hunter has failed to track a 
wounded beast, the services of the diviner are called in. 
The first thing invariably to be done is to pay a fee — large 
or small, according to the ability of the appUcant, and the 
value of the thing that is to be found. This offered and 
accepted, the diviner takes a potsherd and breaks into it 
from a smouldering log a quantity of live coal, and upon 
this he sprinkles crushed dry leaves of two or three bushes, 
which smoulder and send out a pungent smoke. Some of 
the leaves he puts into his mouth. Then grasping the 
Shimubi, he rubs [kubuxva) upon its head the chewed leaves 
from his mouth, and putting its head in the smoke begins 
to talk to it : " You hear what is said. This thing that is 
lost, discover it. It is an axe. Perhaps it is on the ground, 
or on a tree, wherever it is, find it. It is you who know 
where it is." Holding it in his left hand by the head, he 
takes in the other hand a rattle — made nowadays out of a 
milk-tin with some pebbles in it — and shaking this he 

CH. X 


continues his oration. Two men then hold Shimuhi, standing 
one on each side and grasping it with alternate hands, so 
that the hand of one man is not next to his other. The 
divmer continues to talk in a plaintive, beseeching tone : 
" Now, arise and go. . . . Go on, man. . . . Where is the 
road ? . . . Arise, my friend. . . . You know where this 
thing is. . . . Come along, now do." Presently the men 
holding Shimuhi begin to move ; they say the wood draws 
them and they must follow it. He moves along with them, 
shaking his rattle and exhorting the chisondo. 

The behef in the diviner's power to find things is strongly 
held by most people, perhaps, though some merely laugh 
at it. According to the diviners the chisondo never fails. 
It will, they claim, follow a thief and pick him out of a 
crowd ; if a beast has been taken off by a lion it will take 
you to the carcase. How far it really acts, and if it does 
act what there is in it, we cannot say. We have put a 
diviner to the test by offering a reward if he would find 
things we had hidden, but he was not successful. Perhaps 
we could hardly expect him to be under the circumstances. 
He had plenty of excuses : that the men holding the chisondo 
were weak and that Shimuhi soon exhausted them, etc. 
We can quite imagine that often they are successful, through 
knowing beforehand or through making shrewd guesses. 

The diviner has a smaller rod called Shimuhi mwaniche 
(" the young Shimuhi "), which he uses in divining the where- 
abouts of game and in diagnosing disease. The applicant 
pays his fee and tells him what he wants to know. After 
going through the doctoring process as before, the diviner 
sits on the ground with the rod in his hand and talks to it in 
a low tone. Presently it begins to jerk about violently [pida- 
puta). He sits absorbed : it is as if the thing were jumping 
automatically. He asks it, " If we go to-morrow, shall we 
find Eland ? " Taps.i " Shall we find them soon ? " No 
movement. " Shall we have a long search .? " Taps. "Shall 
we kill ? " Taps, slow, uncertain. And the diviner tells 
the applicant that if he goes out on the morrow he will find 

^ To give the answer "Yes" the rod taps the ground ; by ceasing to 
move it answers "No." We use "it" in referring to Shimubi; a native 
would say "he." 


Eland after a long search ; and if he shoots straight and hits 
it in the heart he may kill, if not, not. An oracle that 
leaves plenty of loopholes for escape. Others come before 
starting on a journey to discover whether they are likely 
to have a prosperous time. 

And so in diagnosing a disease. After hearing what the 
applicant has to say, he talks to the rod, and according to 
its movements returns an answer ; perhaps that such and 
such a spirit is offended and wants to be sacrificed to ; or 
that he must go to a certain doctor and get certain medicine. 

Should the head of a family suspect, after two or three 
members have died mysteriously, that there is bulozhi at 
work, he calls together the relations to discuss the matter. 
They decide to consult the diviner, and all go to him in 
company. Only the members of the family are admitted to 
the seance. They tell him what they want, and deposit 
three or four hoes as a fee. Having doctored the Shimubi, 
the diviner addresses it in such words as these : " O 
Shimubi, you see these people in trouble ; they are in tears ; 
they are weeping. They want to know from you the cause 
of this death. Tell them. If it was lufu Iwa Leza (" a 
death to be ascribed to Leza "), well, there is nothing for it 
but to go on weeping. But, on the other hand, if it was 
caused by a fellow-man — tell us, O Shimubi." Shimubi 
moves in the diviner's hand : it is attentive. " Go on ! 
Tell us, was it one man who bewitched those people, one 
who wished them to die so that he could inherit all their 
names ? " Shimubi taps vigorously. " No, no, Shimubi, 
those people died naturally." Shimubi is still. " Well, 
really, they did die bewitched. Was it a relation who was 
the warlock ? " Shimubi taps : " Yes." " Was it So- 
and-so ? " Shimubi taps vigorously. And the diviner 
turns to the people and points out how Shimubi was silent 
when natural death was spoken of, and gave its assent 
when one was spoken of as a warlock. To make doubly 
sure, he sends them away to make a cock undergo the 
mwazhi ordeal. 

This diviner says it is not he himself that gives the 
answer but the chisondo. 

(2) Chipa. — ^The diviner uses one of the ordinary small 

CH. X 


spherical pots. First he washes his hands and lace in 
medicine. Then he takes the head of an axe and fixes it 
firmly into the ground with the sharp edge upmost. He 
chews more medicine and spits the juice into the small pot, 
full of water. He then stands the pot on the edge of the 
axe, with an arrow on each side resting on the ground to 
help in balancing it. He holds it in his hands, feeling about 
till he gets the balancing point. He has asked already 
what the applicant wants to know, and of course the fee 
has been paid. He now addresses the pot, keeping up a long 
incantation in a low voice. He asks it a question and 
withdraws his hands ; if the pot remains rigid, the answer 
is " Yes," if it overbalances, the answer is " No." 

Once, after the diviner had delivered us an oracle that 
we should certainly find game on the morrow, we asked him 
if we could not make the thing speak ; he assured us it was 
out of the question since we had not the necessary medicine. 
When we pressed him, he readily allowed us to try. It 
was in a dirty, tumbledown hut, full of people who had 
crept in to see what the visitors were doing. We sat 
solemnly down, and in less time than we can say, luck had 
it that we got the pot balanced evenly on the axe-edge. 
The people were amazed : it looked as if he were about to 
lose his reputation ; but he quickly recovered himself, 
saying, " Yes, I see what did it. Look at those fragments 
of the medicine that have fallen under the pot ! " 

(3) Kasambi. — ^This is similar to Chipa, but the pot is 
balanced on an untwisted piece of bark-string [ikiimho) 
instead of an axe-edge. 

(4) Divining with Axe. — This man divines with an axe, 
just an ordinary one. He sits with the axe-head towards 
him, resting on a small narrow strip of iron bent double. 
He doctors himself and the axe, and then proceeds Hke the 
other diviners to ask questions. He keeps hitting it in two 
directions : down, to fix it on to the iron, and, forward, to 
try it whether it will move. A forward movement of the 
axe means " No," keeping still when he knocks it, " Yes." 
The question we propounded to this diviner was whether 
all was well at our home. He started to ask the axe 
questions : "Is there a death ? ... Is there sickness ? . . . 


Are there visitors ? . . ." Finally he said that all was well, 
everything was as we had left it ; the chisondo had refused 
to answer except in the negative to all the questions. 

(5) Impindo. — The chisondo in this case is a couple of 
short pieces of dark root, like two bits of slate-pencil, 
about 1 1 inch long. The diviner also has with him a 
walking-stick. Out of his bag he takes some drugs which 
he chews, and spits the juice out on to the stick. He then 
holds the stick upright in his left hand, while he applies 
the two bits of root to the stick. The idea is to see whether 
they will kdhere to it ; if they do, the answer is " Yes," 
if they fall to the ground, " No." Incantations and questions 
as in the other cases. 

In these five kinds of divining the thing addressed 
is the muzhimo, the ancestral ghost — so the diviners tell us ; 
it is the ghost with its supernormal knowledge that guides 
the chisondo and thus gives the answer. But if we had not 
been expressly told that, we should certainly have said that 
the power of divination was in the chisondo itself, and that 
the medicine was to enable it to perform its office, or, in 
other words, to release its energy. For it is the chisondo 
that we heard addressed ; though there was much that 
we could not catch that might have been addressed to 
higher powers. 

(6) Chilola. — This is divining of a rather different kind. 
\j The man has a small calabash, with holes bored around the 

neck, and containing a whitish medicine. He sits down with 
this between his legs, tipped somewhat towards him so that 
he can see into the mouth. He shakes his rattle and begins 
to talk to the thing, telling who the applicant is, and that 
it must give a ready answer to his questions. He then turns 
to the applicant and asks him to sansila, i.e. propound his 
problem. We reply that we are far from home and have 
had no news, will he kindly tell us what is going on ? He 
begins to put the questions. " Any visitors — five — four — 
three— two — one ? " He looks intently into the calabash 
as if he could read the answer there, and after each question 
shakes his head — " No." " Do they live well at the white 
man's home ? " Nods the head—" Yes." " Any death ? " 
No. " No woman dead ? " No. " No child dead ? " 


No. " No man dead ? " No. A lot of other questions, 
and he turns to us with the comforting assurance that all 
is as we could wish, sixty miles away in our home. 

This procedure, while interesting, was less so than the 
explanation which the diviner gave us afterwards. 

There were, he said, two shingvhule. ("shades"), each 
about an inch long, in his calabash : one a man, the other 
a woman. Who are they ? we asked. " Well, sirs, you know 
that as the father so is the son. My father divined with 
this calabash, and he handed me the medicine, so that 
when he died I should take his place. The male chingvhule 
in the calabash is that of my father ; the female chingvhule 
is that of my mother. , . . No, she was not a diviner, but 
used to go about with my father, and so they still keep in 
each other's company. . . . When I take the medicine and 
put it into the calabash it changes into my father and mother, 
their shingvhule appear in the calabash. They can see 
things we men cannot see ; and when I ask them questions 
they answer, and I read the answer." These were his 
words, noted by us at once. It would seem as if an act of 
transubstantiation took place in the pot ; or better, as if 
the medicine had the power of localising the spirits. The 
man would be helpless without the drugs, so he told us ; 
but with their assistance he can get into touch with the 
ghosts and turn their supernormal knowledge to good 

(7) Kuteka.- — ^Similar to this is the act the Ba-ila call 
Kuteka, which is their equivalent to crystal-gazing. Un- 
fortunately, we have always failed to see this done. A 
mortar [inkidi] is filled with water, in which musamo is 
dissolved which makes it black, and the person peering in 
sees things which are happening, will happen, or have 
happened at a distance. We have heard of diviners who 
correctly told the fate of absent people in this way. 

(8) Shantiikumani. — This is another divining instrument 
that we have not been able to examine. We have heard 
of only one person who used it, and she was dead. 
According to eye - witnesses and the woman's husband, 
who described it to us, it consists of a small earthenware 
pot held in the diviner's hand. When asked questions, 


it would speak and deliver an oracle. It sounds like a 
case of ventriloquism. 

(9) By means of a Skin. — The chief, Mungaila, once 
described to us the way in which he saw a diviner detect 
a warlock. There was a large company present, and taking 
in his hands a leopard skin, the diviner, while murmuring 
incantations, proceeded to put the skin on the shoulders 
of some of them in turn. Suddenly, to every one's amaze- 
ment, the skin on being put on a man came to life ; and it 
was a leopard that fastened its claws into the man's neck 
and tore him to pieces. 

(10) The Makakata. — ^We have known one or two 
diviners who used the Makakata, the divining bones, but 
as they are not native to the Ba-ila but were introduced 
probably from the Barotsi and have often been described 
(notably by Mr. Junod ^), we refrain from saying more. 

(9) The Practitioners : [h) The Doctor 

As we have before indicated, the knowledge of misamo 
is not confined to any one class of people. A great many 
know a few simples, and probably in all families there are 
a few cherished remedies. The banganga {" doctors ") are 
distinguished from among their fellows, not by the fact 
that they alone know of drugs, but that they know more 
than others and make their living out of the dispensing of 

As is only natural, these doctors jealously guard their 
knowledge. We have, however, succeeded in learning 
something of their practices and secrets. From one middle- 
aged intelligent doctor we learnt a considerable amount. 
This man in his younger days was a warrior, and still bears 
honourable scars gained in the defence of his home against 
foreign raiders. On his thigh are the marks left by an 
arrow ; and he tells of a bullet penetrating above the 
collar-bone and emerging below the shoulder-blade, and 
points to the scars with pardonable pride. Both these 

^ H. A. Junod, The Life of a South African Tribe (Neuchatel, 1913), 
vol. ii. pp. 493-519- 

CH. X 



wounds he doctored himself. He derived his knowledge 
from his grandfather, who in his day was a noted physician. 





Photo E. 11: Smith. 

A Bambala Doctor. 

The old man used to take him out into the veld and 
forest, show him the roots and leaves, and explain their 



We were anxious to get a collection of this man's drugs, 
not that we might identify and name them botanically, for 
unfortunately we are not competent to do that, but in order 
to elicit his ideas of their use. In response to our urgent 
request, and for a consideration, he brought us upwards of 
sixty drugs which he named and described. It was in- 
teresting to note the air of mystery with which he produced 
these one by one out of a bag made of an entire monkey 
skin. They were all neatly tied up in bundles, many of 
them were wrapped and tied securely in pieces of cloth, 
and others were contained in various receptacles, antelope 
horns, crocodile teeth, armlets, etc. We have repeatedly 
noticed this among the doctors : the value of the medicine 
seems to be enhanced by elaborate tying up. As the 
practitioner sits down in front of his patient, he assumes an 
air of the deepest gravity, slowly produces the drug from 
the mysterious depths of his bag, and proceeds to unroll 
the various wrappings with portentous solemnity, examining 
them with close scrutiny as if some part might be missing. 
It is all done, of course, to impress the mind of the patient 
with the vast wisdom of the doctor. To deepen the im- 
pression, the doctor ornaments his person with feathers, 
antelope horns, and all kinds of the weirdest objects he can 
pick up. One thing about them is at once apparent : 
whatever may be the real therapeutical effect of the drugs, 
these men are clever, if perhaps to some extent unconscious, 
practisers of suggestion. Whether that is the intention 
or not — and it often seems that it is — the things they do 
have a strong suggestive effect upon the suggestible minds 
of the patients. Perhaps we should not be wrong if we 
said that they do more healing by suggestion than by the 
direct effect of their drugs. With the same intention, or 
perhaps we may say with more justice with true religious 
feeling, the doctor offers up a prayer before administering 
his drug. Sitting before the patient, he holds in one hand 
the small calabash containing the medicine, and in the other 
takes a rattle [musebe] made of round palm fruit on a handle, 
and as he rattles it he prays something as follows : " Ndaka- 
homba ! I am humble ! It is thou who created this medi- 
cine and all things. May this person live. Drive away 

CH. X 



witchcraft. Let this medicine make him strong. May 
he see hfe ! " 

Another strong suggestion as to the value of the drugs 
is appKed in the shape of a fee. Doctors do not practise 
for nothing. The fee is termed chishishamuienga {" that 
which enables one to dig up a root "). Unless that fee is 
forthcoming, or a part of it, beforehand, the doctor professes 
not to be able to dig up the root, or that it will not work 
its effect. Usually one pa3^ment does not end the matter, 
and some doctors are very exacting. Frequently one will 
demand a slave or two, or sometimes as many as ten head 

r/to/o li. ir. Sin till 

A Doctor's Outfit. 

of cattle. A doctor we know of got £3, an impande shell, 
a woollen blanket, and four stretches of calico. He was 
doctoring the patient for four months. He was promised 
an ox if he worked a cure, but failed. In another case a 
doctor cured a woman of sores, and claimed and got as pay- 
ment his patient and another woman as slaves (see p. 395). 
To return to our doctor and his drugs : we give a de- 
scription of them here, not that we think the names will 
be of service to our readers, but in order to show the wide 
range of one man's practice and to exhibit his ideas about 

I. Inkandang omhe 

roots of the Munkandang'ombe tree 
used to cure a person who has been in any way bewitched. The 
roots are scraped and the powder mixed with fat and rubbed 


on his body ; the core of the root is soaked in hot water and the 
decoction drunk. 

2. Kapululu : roots of a wild plant with a faint odour. 
Scrapings are smoked in a pipe, and a powder is also rubbed 
into incisions before cupping. It is used in any painful affection 
to drive out the disease. 

3. Malumbwe : a small tuber ; peeled and eaten, or soaked in 
water and the liquor drunk, as a cure for chest complaints. 

4. Kalangu : a small tuber ; rubbed on a stone and mixed 
with fat and used to anoint the body of a person to keep off 
spirits {kutizha luwo). 

5. Mufwamba : root of a tree from which an emetic is made 
by soaking it in hot water, as a cure for kafungo (see p. 234). 
When the patient vomits he brings up a small white object in 
which the disease is ; the idea is that if he does not vomit it, it 
will get into his heart and kill him. The emetic can be used 
prophylacticaUy, but if he has not already got the disease the 
person will not vomit. 

6. Mukulu-ufumbete : roots of a small bush, used in setting 
bones {kununga chifua). When a limb is broken, the doctor 
scrapes this root and cooks the scrapings in a pot, puts them hot 
in a piece of cloth or skin, and with it manipulates the limb, 
getting the broken bones in place. He then takes, as a splint, 
a mat made of stiff thick grass or reeds, called kasasa, and binds 
it firmly round the limb with strips of bark. This is left on some 
weeks and is then untied. If necessary, the limb is afterwards 
worked backwards and forwards to restore the joint's suppleness. 
This medicine is called also mununga (" the joiner "). 

7. Musekese : roots of a tree. A piece is scraped and torn 
up. A stout fragment is drilled and threaded, and is worn slung 
under the arm to induce conception ; and scrapings are mixed 
with fat and rubbed on the woman's body for the same purpose. 
The root is also soaked in warm water and the liquor used to 
foment the mouth inside for toothache. 

8. Kanemhe : root of a tree, used to induce conception. 
The roots are put to soak in water and the liquor is to be drunk 
daily every morning for a time. A powder is also made from 
them and mixed with porridge. 

9. Muhimha: roots of a tree used for lushinga (see p. 240). 
They are soaked in water and the liquor drunk. 

10. Mulemhela : roots of a tree to keep off evil spirits 
[tuyohela) . They are scraped, mixed with butter, and rubbed on 
the body ; a decoction is also drunk. 

11. Mufufuma : roots of a tree bearing a violet-like flower. 
If a person passes over where the after-birth of twins (mabombola) 
is buried he gets a disease called chinsangwa (a name also given 


to the after-birth), his feet and legs swell, and his head spUts 
across longitudinally down to the nose. This is the remedy. 
The patient is to sniff the roots, and this draws out the disease. 
We have seen this drug used for other purposes (see p. 254). 

12. Titnkotonkoto : roots of a bush about 18 inches high. 
This is medicine for enabling a trapper to ensnare game. He 
mixes scrapings of the root with fat and rubs it on the string 
of his trap and puts some of it in the hole. 

13. Chihuhu : roots of a tree used as a remedy for diarrhoea. 
They are crushed up ; the outside is made into powder and 
added to flour and eaten : the inside is made into a decoction 
and drunk. 

14. Mtihanga : root of a tree used together with Mushi- 
hampeyo, root of a small bush, as a cure for impotence. The 
former is split up, wanned over a fire, and rubbed on the male 
organ ; the latter is powdered and blown into the orifice (knfimta). 

15. Mulebelebe : tuberous roots of a plant. The rind is 
peeled off and the tuber is put into a churn to induce the butter 
to come {kuzenga mafiita). 

16. Mukona : root of a tree. To promote menstruation 
when it is overdue. A decoction is drunk and an ointment made 
for rubbing on the abdomen. 

17. Mukiiha : roots of a small bush, used to promote the 
growth of grain and to prevent it being witched away by sorcerers. 
The roots are beaten up and fragments planted with the seed. 

18. Mukunkii : roots of a small plant. They are crushed 
and the powder is scattered in a ring around a field to keep away 
thieves. Should a thief attempt to cross it his knees get dis- 
located, his sinews dry up, and the owner finds him there helpless. 
Our doctor gave us instances of this. 

19. Chihumhwe : roots of a plant, used together with 
Mushenshe, the root of a tree, as a remedy for syphihs. The 
former is put in water and the liquor used to foment the sores, 
and the latter is powdered and dusted on them. 

20. Muhumhwe : roots of a small bush, used with Miikololo, 
another root, as a remedy for leprosy [chinsenda) . The former 
is used to foment, and the latter to dust on the sores. 

21. Shikantjo : tuberous root of a bush, used in midwifery 
practice. The roots are crushed and rubbed on the midwife's 
hands, which are then inserted in the vaginal passage, the sides 
of which are gently stretched. The purpose of the drug is to 
ease the birth, 

22. Muyeye : roots of a small bush, from which a decoction 
is made and administered to a parturient woman, after No. 21 
has been administered ; its use is to promote the birth. 

23. Chamamopwe : the roots and stem of a small plant. 


They are burnt in a potsherd and the ashes scattered over the 
house to keep away witches and their influence. 

24. Mumpempe : roots of a bush crushed up and put into 
a horn and planted at the doorway of a house to keep away 

25. Muzhimbididi : the root of a tree. The rind is peeled or 
scraped off and the inside is put into water and the liquor drunk. 
It is used by men, lest when having intercourse with women they 
should catch lushinga — a painful affection — from them. The 
lushinga might catch a man in the abdomen and work its way 
down into the genitalia and cause impotence. 

26. Chiwezezhi : bulbous roots, crushed up and put into a 
small horn, which is worn round the neck : its purpose is to keep 
off witchcraft. It is used also in smithery work. Some of it is 
put in the inganzo (the kiln) in order to promote the melting. 

27. Katoze : the root of a tree, crushed and put into the 
horn of a large animal, which is placed on the roof of the house, 
to keep off witchcraft. 

28. Miito : roots of a tree used by the digger of game-pits 
to ensure capturing game. When he has dug the pit he sits by 
the side of it, closes his eyes and prays : " Ndakabomba, udielele 
kumpa huzani. No walenga musamo wezo, hanyama wahalcnga, 
ome wanenga, ndakomhela buzani" ("I am humble! Thou 
shouldst give me meat, thou who hast created this medicine, and 
hast created animals and created me also, I pray for meat "). He 
throws this medicine into the pit. The idea is that as he does 
this with his eyes closed, so animals will not be able to see the 
pit, but will fall into it. 

29. Lubabangwe : the roots of a bush, combined with No. 28 
for the same purpose. 

30. Malama : roots of a bush, used for chest complaints. 
Portions of the root are placed in small hollow crocodile teeth 
and tied round the chest. 

31. Imbono : black castor oil seeds. Medicine for warriors, 
worn in battle so that the weapons of the enemy may not wound 
them mortally. They do not ensure entire immunity from hurt, 
but masumo tashika ku burnt {" the spears will not arrive at the 
life "). Also a witchcraft preventive. If you wear them the 
warlock who is thinking of doing you harm will get his heart 
black, as the seeds are black, and will be unable to do any 

32. A tiny piece of hippo skin worn in a small horn. This 
also is medicine for warriors. If one is chased by his enemies 
and jumps into a river, this medicine will prevent him from 
drowning ; like a hippo, he will be able to stay under water and 
so escape. 


33. Chaliipako : a small section of an orchid stem, worn 
round the neck by a woman who is suffering from a sore neck. 

34. Miiliilwe : shreds of the seed-pods of a tree. Smoked 
in a pipe to keep off witchcraft. 

35. Mitpagapaga : a bulb, crushed up and carried in a horn 
slung under the arm by a warrior going to battle. He also takes 
some of it and smokes it in his pipe, saying this : " Koko nkwinja 
ndielele kuvJnva biiiiii, nimhayaye" ("There where I am going 
let me escape with my life, and kill them "). Wearing this drug 
ensures, like No. 31, immunity from mortal wounds. 

36. Chitidii : root of a bush, used together with Mungunya, 
the leaves of a tree, as niusamo wa luyaso (" spearing medicine "). 
They are put in a fire and the fisher's spears are held in the fumes 
to ensure his spearing, and not missing, the fish. 

37. Chikalamatanga : root of a bush, taken as snuff for 
nasal catarrh. 

38. Mttdimhula : roots of a tree, to cure people suffering 
from kashita (epilepsy), caused by witchcraft. 

39. Miinshimhwe : the root of a tree, a decoction of which 
is administered to sufferers from kashita. 

40. Lutende : root and leaves of a bush, put into hot water 
and the liquor used to wash out the mouth of one suffering from 
chikunkameno (" bleeding from the teeth "). 

41. Mweheziiha : the root of a tree, a decoction from which 
is administered to a child suffering from kasema, a disease caused 
by sucking the breasts when the mother is pregnant (see Vol. IL 
p. 12). 

42. Tandabala : a small running plant, used to make an 
ointment to rub on the body of the child suffering from kasema. 

43. Chisomwe : the root of a tree, used for inchinko (in- 
cipient madness). The roots are scraped, crushed, and burnt 
in a potsherd, and the patient bathed in the fumes. 

44. Chikwangala : a running plant, dried and powdered. 
Some is made into an ointment and rubbed on the body, and 
some blo^vn into the eyes, ears, and anus of a man with inchinko. 

45. Njamukupa : root of a bush, from which a powder is 
made to cure kafungo (see p. 234). Some is smoked in a pipe 
and some blown into the nose. 

46. Talantamhwe : the root of a bush from which an oint- 
ment is made to rub on the body of a person with kafungo. 

47. Mununkila : the root of a tree used to cure a man who 
has lushizhi a menso (" darkness, or dimness, before the eyes," 
i.e. who is in a fit). The powder from the root is put into a basket 
and jerked out in front of his eyes as he sits opposite to you. 

48. Tagil : root of a bush, used to massage the limbs of a 
person in a fit. 


49. Mudimhula : the pith of this tree is used with the root 
of Miifumu tree as medicine to promote conception. A decoction 
of the former is drunk, and an ointrnent is made from the latter. 

50. Muchinga : the leaves and root of a tree, used to wash 
the body of a newborn child to make it strong. 

51. Mulwe : roots of a tree, used in case a woman shows 
signs of aborting, in order kukadika mwana, akule atavhwi hiihishi 
(" to make the child stay, so that it may grow and not come out 
unripe "). 

This, then, is the list of drugs used by this doctor. We 
urge again that we do not guarantee the absolute accuracy 
of the list, but give it as illustrating their ideas. After this 
doctor had brought us about fifty of these drugs, we asked 
him for certain others, the names of which we already knew. 
We noted the names and he counted them off on his fingers. 
He brought the number, but after describing some he 
hesitated over the names and at last asked us to read over 
the list. He picked out one name and said that was the 
drug. When he did this a second time our suspicions were 
aroused that he was humbugging us, so we made up a name 
to test him. " Mukombo," we said. " Yes," replied he, 
" that's the name, Mukombo, and it is used as a cure for 
lukombo ("umbilical hernia"). When we told him what 
we had done and accused him of cheating us, he adhered 
unflinchingly to his tale that the drug was Mukombo. To 
test him further, we took various drugs out of the heap, 
all carefully numbered according to this list, and asked 
him the names again. Some days had elapsed since he had 
described them, but he was able to give the names and 
describe the uses as we had written them down, which he 
could hardly have done if he had only given us fictitious 
names. Probably, therefore, it was only at the end that 
he had deceived us. It is enough to show with what 
suspicion a doctor is to be regarded when he professes 
to let a stranger into his secrets. 





The principal social groups among the Ila-speaking peoples 
are : (i) the Family ; (2) the Clan ; (3) the Community. 
Secondary groups are the Age-grades and other covenanted 

The former do not bear any direct relationship to each 
other : that is to say, a number of the families does not make 
up a clan, and a number of clans a community. There are 
cross-divisions running through them, so that the members 
of any particular clan belong not to one but to several 
communities, and a community is made up of members of 
various families and clans. If we take any community, 
such as Mala, for instance, we find there many families and 
many clans, members of which are scattered through the 
other communities. This cross-division results in a certain 
amount of cohesion, for the fact of families and clans being 
dispersed in this way tends to bind the communities together 
by natural ties of affection and comradeship. But the 
further development into a nation has not taken place. 
There is no more than a congeries of communities loosely 
bound together by individual ties, not a nation welded 
together under a single head. 

I. The Family 

The domestic establishment among the Ba-ila consists 
of a man, his wife or wives, their children, the children 
under his guardianship, sometimes an aged parent, and 
slaves — all these dependents being grouped comprehensively 



as the man's hana (" children "). These groups are not 
large. The most numerous family we have seen is that of 
Chibaluma : we photographed a group of twenty-five, and 
there were ten members absent. That is an unusual 
number. This was our friend Mungalo's family : his father 
and mother were both killed in a Barotsi raid. He had six 
wives. The first, Namucheme, died of smallpox, leaving 
two boys, one of whom died as a child. Mayaba, the head 
wife, had no children ; Shibusenga, the third, had two 
children, a girl and a boy ; Mompizho and Kambwila, the 
fourth and fifth wives, had no children ; the sixth was a 
girl- wife. 

Little need be said as to the duties and privileges of 
family life, seeing that they differ scarcely at all from those 
prevailing in European families. There is a strong family 
affection ; fathers and mothers delight in their children, 
and do all they know how for their comfort and well-being. 
The father rules in the family, though his power over it 
is conditioned by the presence of clan rules, among which 
is the rule giving the mother's brother greater power than 
his over the children. 

As divorce is so frequent, this group is not stable, but 
while it exists the members live and work together for their 
mutual interests, being held together by natural affection. 
But they do not form a homogeneous group as a family of 
Europeans do, in which the wife and children all take the 
father's name. There is no assimilation of clan {mukoa) 
within this family ; the father is still a member of his clan, 
and each wife of hers, and if the interests of the clan conflict 
with those of the family, the former prevail over the latter, 
as a natural prevails over an artificial relationship. 

A gulf separates a man from his children too, for although 
they are his and in case of divorce remain with him, yet 
they are reckoned as members not of his but of their mother's 
clan, and he has less power over them than their maternal 
uncles. The father's side of the pedigree is termed the 
mukwashi ; this is the family par excellence. As the Ba-ila 
tersely express it : Mukoa ngwa banoko, mukwashi ngwa 
uso {" The clan is your mother's, the family is your father's "). 
In a subsequent chapter will be found the terms expressing 


relationship, and it will be seen that a person gives his j 
mother's relations the same titles as he gives his father's ; 
indeed he will bestow some of the same titles upon those 
who are related to him only by marriage. But this common 
usage must not hide from us the fundamental distinction 
between the mukwashi and the miikoa : the former the line 
of descent through the father, and the latter that through 
the mother. 

The nearest equivalent to " home " in 11a is the word 
uko.^ It coalesces with the personal pronouns : ukwesu 
[uko-wesu) is " our home " ; k'ukwesu is " at our home " ; 
Uko tata is " my father's home " ; Uko hama is " my mother' s 
home." A person is situated very differently in regard to 
these two homes : uko hama is mine in an entirely different 
sense from uko tata. 

We may illustrate this with reference to certain people 
named in the pedigree on p. 333. Chimwadi was born at 
Buzhiba, where also his father, Kayobe, was born ; his 
mother, Mukamwenda, was from landa. Chimwadi went 
to Basanga to become chief, and while there married, as 
one of five wives, Nachiloba, who came from Namwala. 
While their son, Shamatanga, was still a child, both of them 
died. He has no recollection of them, but was told later 
on in life that he belonged to the Banasolwe clan. Chako, 
a chief at Namwala, being a Munasolwe, is a relation of his, 
and he was told not to misbehave at Chako' s because it was 
his mother's home, k'ukwabo hanoko. Shamatanga speaks 
of Namwala as uko hama, and of Buzhiba as uko tata ; he 
speaks of both places as Buzukuzhi hwangu, i.e. " where 
my grandparents were." He has a status at Namwala 
that he has not at Buzhiba ; he calls himself mukamwmi 
inshi (" a possessor of the land "), and he would be eligible 
for the chiefship there should he be elected. He married 
Kalubi, from Nanzela, and their eldest child is named after 
her grandmother Nachiloba ; she is muntii budio, a mere 
nobody at Buzhiba, her father's father's birthplace ; they 
will out of politeness speak to and of her as mwanesii (" our 

1 The stem of this word {ko) appears to enter into several of the words 
used in this chapter : muA'oa, ra\ikw3.shi, kameAo, iAowela, chiAo, but we 
cannot explain their etymology. 


child "), but she has no mukoa there. She and all her 
brothers and sisters have a kameko there, i.e. a half-and-half 
clan, a pseudo-clan, only. If she is visiting there they may, 
when offering sacrifices, make an oblation on her behalf 
[ktminpaidila) , but it will be of water only, because she is 
not of their clan, and so cannot expect favour from the 
ancestral spirits of that clan. They give her a cupful of 
water, and after she has sipped the rest is poured out at the 
musemu. She is not of their clan ; it is expressly said of 
her, " wadiata inshi ya heni " (" she is treading the land of 
others," i.e. is an alien). She is the same at Basanga, her 
father's birthplace : they call her mwanabo (" their child "), 
because it is nkwaho ushe (" her father's home "). But she 
is an alien. At Nanzela she is on a different footing entirely, 
for it is nkwaho haina (" her mother's home ") ; there she 
has clansmen proper. 

2. The Clan 

The clan, then, mukoa, is the line of the mother. The 
mukoa is totemistic in character, that is to say, the members 
of a clan call themselves by the name of some animal or 
plant or natural object between which and themselves they 
conceive to be a certain relationship, and which they 
accordingly regard with considerable respect. 

In an appendix to this chapter we give a list of ninety- 
three clans. It has been no easy matter to compile this list, 
and we are not even now satisfied with it. The difficulties 
are these. People are often very reluctant to give the 
names — why, it is not easy to understand. We compiled 
the list by asking people individually, and afterwards 
checked it with the aid of old men. This checking has 
been of help, but it would seem that no man, not even the 
most prominent of the old chiefs, knows all the clans cor- 
rectly. Then, a person on being asked his clan may answer 
you in three ways : he may give you the name compounded 
of the totem, such as Bananachindwe ; or the name of the 
place with which the clan is associated, as Ba-Santi ; or 
again he may give you the name of a prominent member 
of the clan, or the head, as Ba-Mungaila. They do this 


either out of a desire to mislead or because the name of the 
totem may not be pronounced or because in course of time 
it has come to be named from the place or person. Another 
source of possible error is that the totem often has several 
names, i.e. the common name and tembaula [i.e. praise) 
names, and the difficulty is to know whether there is only 
one or more than one clan under those names. The clan, 
e.g., of the Buffalo seems to have at least four names : 
Bananyati [mimyati is the common name of the animal) ; 
Banamusungwa [musungwa is the animal's tembaula name) ; 
Bana-Mainga [Mainga seems to have been once the head 
of the clan) ; and Bana-Mbeza [Mbeza is the name of the 
place). And again the clan itself, apart from the totem, 
may have a nickname ; the Bamambwe, e.g., are called 
Banashishiikudya ("Those of I-won't-leave-the-food"), be- 
cause some of them once stayed behind eating when they 
should have been fighting. There are therefore possibilities 
of mistakes in compiling a list of the clans, and we can only 
say we have done our best to avoid them. 

As to the names of these clans, it will be noticed that 
they are compounded of the prefix Bana- and the name of 
an animal, in most cases. This prefix must not be confused 
with the word bana {" children ") of which the singular is 
mwana ; the singular of bana- is muna-. In the Congo 
region there is a similar prefix [muina, bena),^ which is 
explained by Sir H. H. Johnston ^ as meaning brother, 
brothers ; others have taken it as master, masters. Among 
the Ba-ila muna- certainly does not mean brother, nor 
can it be confounded with mwini (owner, master). The 
na is a possessive particle used largely by the Ba-ila in such 
words as muwakwangu (" my person "), chiwakwangu (" my 
thing"), literally "(thing) it-of-to-me." ^ The mu is a 
prefix denoting person, Hving thing, and its plural is ba. 
So that Munampongo means literally " he-of-the-goat " ; 
Banampongo " they-of-the-goat." Munakwesu in Ha 
signifies " my fellow-clansman." 

The names of the animals are not always those in cornmon 

1 See the list of Baluba clans, Appendix II. p. 313. 

2 George Grenfell and the Congo, vol. ii. p. 684. 

' See E. W. Smith, Ila Handbook (London, 1907), p. 98. 


use to-day. Thus the lia word for lion is shumbwa, and the 
word nkalamo, which is part of the clan name Bankalamo, 
is rarel}^ heard ; but iikalanm is the ordinary name for lion 
in Lenje, Lala, Senga, and Wisa. We must suppose, 
therefore, either that this clan has immigrated from some- 
where among those people or, what is more likely, that at 
some remote date, when the Ba-ila formed one people with 
those tribes, they had the same name for lion. For some 
reason the Ra-ila have lost the name while the others have 
kept it. The word kotale, which gives its name to the 
Banakotale, the crocodile clan, is also not Ila, but in the 
form of ntale is used by the Balenje. 

We give in an appendix to this chapter the names of a 
few clans we have known among neighbouring peoples ; 
it will be seen that some of them are the same as Ila clans. 
Some of these clans among the Ba-ila are demonstrably 
foreign, e.g. the Batunga ; perhaps they all are. The 
presence of such clans seems to indicate immigration ; and 
could we have a full list of all the clans in these neighbour- 
ing tribes it would probably throw light upon the ancient 
movements of the people now described as I la-speaking. 

Why do a number of people associate themselves with 
and call themselves by the name of a particular class of 
animals, plants, or things ? The clans are connected in 
some way, as we shall see, with certain localities, and it 
might be thought that the totem is an animal or plant living 
or growing especially in those places. But none of the 
totems is sufficiently localised to support such a conjecture. 
Duikers and lions and pigeons and baobab trees, and what 
not, are found in every district ; so we must certainly rule 
out that suggestion. We must also reject the theory by 
which Dr. Theal tried to account for the remnants of 
totemism among the tribes of South Africa. The Ba-ila 
do certainly believe in transmigration ; but there seems 
to be little or no connection between their totemism and 
their conceptions of metempsychosis. The only suggestion 
of this that we have had came from Mungaila, who once 
told us that aU the Bakubi turn into matoshi (see Vol. II. 
pp. 128 sq.) on their death. 

The Banachibizi do not pass after death into zebras, 

VOL. I u 












nor the Banasulwe into hares. The number of the animals 
into which the Ba-ila do pass, or beUeve they pass, is, as 
we shall see in a later chapter, strictly limited in number ; 
and people of any clan can pass into them — into lions, for 
example. We cannot indeed find in the facts before us 
any reason to support any of the current theories as to the 
origin of Totemism. Nor is that to be wondered at. The 
Ba-ila are far from ranking among the most primitive people 
of the world ; they are far advanced beyond the Australian 
aborigines, for example, who know nothing of working in 
metals or of agriculture. Sir James Frazer may find justifica- 
tion in their ignorance of elementary physiological facts for 
his " conceptional " theory, but, whatever it may have been 
in the past, any such theory would now only provoke the 
Ba-ila to ridicule. Like the Australians, the Ba-ila believe 
implicitly in reincarnation, but not without the ordinary pro- 
cesses of nature. With Sir James Frazer's theory in mind 
we put the question to one of the oldest men in the country, 
whether he had ever heard, or whether his fathers had ever 
told him, of a child being born in that manner. Without 
any hesitation, and with the air of one who closes a subject 
with a word, he asked, " Did you ever know of a cow 
calving without a bull ? " A pastoral people are not likely 
to remain in ignorance of such matters. 

We cannot hope, in fact, to offer any suggestion as to 
the origin of Totemism. We have put questions in various 
forms, direct and indirect, to many people, and have specially 
questioned the old men as to what they learnt from their 
fathers, but no rational answer can be obtained. Nor can 
we offer our readers any legends like those recorded by 
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, and other writers. The totem 
is regarded as a relation, but how or why it is so they can 
offer no explanation. Leza, we are told, caused the ancestor 
and his totem to descend together in the beginning, and 
some suppose that once the totem was a person ; e.g. 
Mungalo said that the momha ("hornbill"), his totem, 
was once a man, how it became a bird he did not know ; 
but we have got no further than that. 

What is certain is that many, if not all, the clans are 
associated in the minds of the people with certain localities. 


The Bananyungwe, for example, wherever they live, assign 
the birth of their clan to Kane : " nku wakasokela " (" that is 
where it originated "), they say. ISIow we are not to look 
to the I la country for the real place of origin of their clan 
system, but must find some other explanation for that 
phrase. Seeing that the system prevails, or can be shown 
to have prevailed in the past, over, perhaps, the whole of 
the Bantu region of Africa,^ we are justified in thinking that 
it existed in their original home before they separated. 
The first Ba-ila who came would already be divided up into 
clans. Divided up in what way ? If the descent was 
reckoned through the father, then we may suppose that a 
section of the invaders was made up of members of a single 
clan ; and settling at a certain place their clan would 
afterwards be always associated with that district. That 
gives an easy explanation of the fact, but we should then 
have to account for the change in reckoning descent from 
the father to the mother. We believe it to be established 
that female descent is older than male descent, and while 
there are instances of a change from female to male descent, 
tfiere are none from male to female. We may take it, then, 
that the Ba-ila when they first came reckoned, as they 
reckon now, the descent through the mother ; and conse- 
quently any one section was made up of several clans and 
not of a single clan. We can imagine a man of the Nyungwe 
clan settling with his followers at Kane ; his wives would 
be of other clans, and his children would belong to their 
mothers' ; his other followers might or might not be of his 
clan, but because he was the chief of that place his clan 
name would be associated with Kane by members of other 
communities, and in time the idea would prevail that the 
clan originated there. His daughters would be married 
into other communities by members of different clans ; his 
sons would bring home their wives from other clans ; so that, 
even were it possible for Kane to have been originally 
inhabited by Bananyungwe only, there would soon be many 
clans there. It is in this way that we may venture to 
explain the facts as we find them to-day, that the clans, 

1 See the large collection of facts in Sir James Frazer's nionumentall| 
work, Totemism and Exogamy (London, 1910), vol. ii. 


while being each of them associated with a definite locality, 
are not limited to it, but are dispersed over the whole 

For these clans are exogamous. That, at least, is quite 
certain. A Lechwe may not marry a Lechwe, nor a Leopard 
be married by a Leopard. No marriage is recognised 
within the clan. Members of different clans living in the 
same village may marry ; but though they live even a 
hundred miles apart, if they are of the same clan, they may 
have neither regular nor irregular intercourse. As love 
not only laughs at locksmiths but also, on occasion, dis- 
regards all laws, human and divine, cases have happened 
even of endogamous marriages, but they are regarded with 
the utmost abhorrence. Cases have happened in ignorance 
also, and, though it is difficult to beUeve, the clan relation- 
ship only discovered after marriage was consummated. No 
punishment is meted out to the offenders ; the marriage 
is simply dissolved, or they are left, if they wish it, to meet 
the inevitable fate of those who break a taboo. 

Should two such people remain in wedlock a curious 
compHcation would ensue in their mutual relationship on 
the religious side. Pambala pambala muzhimo tokaki mwini 
is a saying which indicates that an ancestral ghost, the 
muzhimo, will not refuse to hear those of his own family, 
but will certainly not pay heed to those of another. Con- 
sequently a husband will not pray for his wife, nor a wife 
for her husband ; the muzhimo helps only his own people. 
Now, if they were both of the same clan the extraordinary 
sight might be witnessed of a man praying for his wife, 
or vice versa ; to us that would seem the right and natural 
thing to do, but simply because it is not done among the 
Ba-ila they say it ought not to be done : it is taboo. So 
that there is, indirectly, a religious as well as a social 
sanction to the exogamous system. 

We have never seen or heard of any ceremonies being 
carried out for the purpose, e.g., of increasing the totem. 
Whether ever any such existed, as they exist to-day among 
the Australian tribes, we cannot say ; but if so they have 
long since faded away from the memories of the oldest men. 
The Totemism of the Ba-ila exists as a feature of their social 


organisation, not as part of their religion. The only semi- 
religious feature in it is the reverence in which the totem 
is held. In the case of the animal-totems this is shown in 
their not being killed or eaten b}^ the clan. If you ask a 
man whether he eats his totem, he will protest vigorously 
against the idea ; he will say it is musazhima (" my kins- 
man "), or that it is mulemu (" honoured "). Katumpa, of 
the dog clan, when asked if he ate dogs, said, " Shall I eat 
a man ! " Yet this is not now a universal feeling. In this 
respect the totemism of to-day is a degeneration. Old men 
will refrain from killing or eating where young men will 
have no scruples. One young man said when we asked 
whether he would eat his kinsman, the hon, " Yes, even 
if it had just devoured my father I would take him out of 
its stomach and eat the lion." Generally speaking, we may 
say that where the totem animal is edible the younger men 
will eat it, and will only refrain when the animal is in itself 
unpalatable. Thus the Bakubi clan, whose totem is the 
viilture, the Bachiwena (Crocodiles), the Banaumpe (Wild- 
dogs) do not, and are hardly likely to break the ancestral 
custom ; while on the other hand the Bono, whose totem 
is cattle, the Basanti (Oribis), Banakonze (Hartebeestes), 
etc., are strongly tempted to eat, and as a matter of fact 
the younger generation do eat, the totem. In former days 
the Bono refrained not only from eating beef but also from 
drinking milk. 

In respect to totems other than animals and birds we 
can hardly understand in what ways reverence was shown 
them. The Banamaila could hardly have refrained from 
eating grain or the Batunga from drinking water. 

The mode of transmitting the clan also shows, we think, 
that the system is breaking down, or at any rate changing. 
The rule is for the child, whether male or female, to take 
its mother's clan. In making our list we had columns ruled 
showing in each instance the father's and mother's clan, 
and asked each person to state what they were. In a very 
few instances the man named his father's clan as his own, 
but otherwise all gave theirs as the mother's. We are 
justified in saying, therefore, that this is the general rule. 
On the other hand, if the question is put directly, " Do you 


take your mother's or your father's clan ? " the answer 
varies. Some have said they take the father's, others the 
mother's, and others again that they take both. The latter 
means, as we have pointed out to them, that one person 
will have many clans, two at least from each parent : 
they have agreed with this, while affirming that the true 
mukoa is that of the mother. One of our most trusted 
informants said this : " The clan of a person is manifold : 
on the mother's side is his clan, and on the father's side too. 
Those born with his father are all of his clan, and those 
born with his mother. Those of his mother and the grand- 
parents who bore the mothers are his clan ; and the 
ancestors who bore his father are his clan too. All these 
are his clans, not pseudo-clans [mikoa itadi ihesha), but 
patent to everybody." But in another connection he 
always spoke of the father's and grandparent's clan as 
kameko or kamekomeko only, i.e. half-and-half clans. We 
have heard him speak, too, of the ordinary covenants of 
friendship as mikoa. " One kind of mukoa," he said, 
" pertains to food. When a man is desperately hungry he 
will call to another, ' My clansman, don't you see I need 
food ? ' But this is no true clan. The true clan is that 
which appears when you are in trouble, when you are 
bereaved or ill and a clansman comes to see you : that is 
a clanship that is not of porridge ! Another clan is an 
acquaintanceship merely {ndikowela hudio), not a true 
clanship ; you simply get to know each other and you call 
it a mukoa, because you eat and drink together. The true 
clan is of your father and mother who gave birth to those 
who were born with you. How are they the real mukoa ? 
Because they help you in all your troubles, they stand by 
you to death and everything else that comes to you — that 
is the great and true mukoa." Another said, " One kind 
of covenant among the Ba-ila is the mukoa — very long and 
unfailing. You and your friend hold each other ; you 
become firmly united chikaminwe, i.e. as the fingers are 
united in the hand ; if you are sick your friend comes to see 
you, and if you are bereaved he comes to weep with you, 
and you do the same for him. Of such a firm friendship 
you can say, it is no longer a covenanted friendship but an 


unfailing mukoa." This seems to imply that the word 
mukoa is being extended to cover not only a person's relations 
on both sides, but also others who act towards him as 
genuine friends, i.e. embracing all that the Ba-ila include in 
kameko, ikowela, milongo. 

It seems inevitable that once the distinction between 
kameko and mukoa is obliterated, and a person takes several 
clan names, the exogamous system as it has existed must 

One rule which may explain some of the exceptional 
cases mentioned above is that the children of a bondwoman 
married to a freeman take the father's clan, generally if 
not always. Such a child is often preferred for the position 
of chief of the community of which the father was a member, 
because he is much more likely to have the interests of the 
place at heart than a man the mother of whom was a free- 
woman whose mukoa was in another community. The 
children of such a woman — she is called Mwanakashiila 
[kushia, " to leave ") — may probably return to her home 
after her death ; but those who take the father's clan are 

The clan is a natural mutual-aid society, the members 
being bound to render their fellows all the help they can in 
.life. Members of one clan are, if we may use Biblical 
language, members also of one another. A member belongs 
to the clan, he is not his own ; if he is wronged they will 
right him ; if he does wrong the responsibility is shared by 
them. If he is killed the clan take up the feud, for he 
belongs to them ; if a daughter of the clan is to be married 
they have to give their consent first. Ba-ila who have 
never met before will at once be friends if it turns out that 
they are of the same mukoa. If one has the misfortune to 
become a slave his clansmen will contribute his redemption 
price. To some extent the same solidarity applies even to 
foreigners if they are of the same clan as any Ba-ila. If a 
• Muluba comes to a village, and in response to a question 
says he is a Munampongo (" a Goat"), then any Banampongo 
in the village will show him hospitality, for though of 
another tribe he is a clansman. In short, a man's prosperity 
is that of the clan ; a man's loss is that of the clan. 


In illustration of this we will here transcribe a translation 
of a passage that was dictated to us by one of the Bansange, 
the Kestrel clan : 

" If I hear that they have killed a Munsange, why, I go 
there to fight. Perhaps I meet an elder Munsange who 
dissuades me, saying, ' Don't do that, let us talk over the 
matter, so that the affairs may end b}^ the mouth.' On 
that account I desist. The heads of the Bansange discuss 
their intentions ; perhaps they say ' Pay ' to the man who 
killed the Munsange. Or they ask, ' What is to be done 
to him ? ' So they talk and decide upon making him pay. 
So, if he is the member of a clan, he and all his clansmen 
begin to pay what the Bansange, whose the deceased was, 
decide. Whether it is ten cattle, he pays, or whether it is 
people as slaves, he pays. Why, then, the judgement is 
executed. If it be a man by himself who has no clansmen 
who stand behind him, they take possession of him. He 
becomes the property of all the Bansange, and they call him 
' Our man.' When he is taken in this way, he lives with 
the head of the Bansange. Again, if there be one who is 
going to marry or be married, the same thing happens. All 
the clansmen consult together and say, ' The child is to 
be married.' Whether it be the daughter of the head of- 
the Bansange, or of any clansman, they consult with the 
heads all together. But these things they do not tell the 
young Bansange, but only the elders. They converse, 
having met together and sitting in one place. Then one 
of the heads, when they name the man who is to marry her, 
objects, saying, ' That man is not to marry the child, our 
daughter ; he has misbehaved himself.' Whether he is 
poor, or something else, has a bad character, is a passionate 
fellow, or an adulterer, or a thief, anyhow he objects to him, 
and he, the elder of the Bansange, refuses him. Others 
who wish very much 'for him to marry her, when he speaks 
thus, they, his fellow-elders, object, and say, ' Let her be 
married. What's wrong with him you forbid ? If he is 
a rascal, his rascality is his own, and as for the girl let her 
be married.' The other answers them, ' Do you give her 
in marriage yourselves, I don't wish her to be married by 
that person.' On that the other elders agree, and begin 


to talk about the chiko,^ saying, ' Let him pay {kwa) ! 
Let him pay a lot ! Twenty ! ' They tell him who is to 
marry, ' Pay twenty head, for we refuse to let her simply 
be married for little, by you, because you do not marry well, 
they say you are not a good character.' Upon that the 
man does not worry himself, for he also has his clan, and he 
goes back, goes to talk with his clansmen, saying, ' They 
have given me a girl to marry, and for the chiko they want 
the amount of twenty, do you contribute.' They agree 
together, and begin to make contributions : they give {pa) 
the Bansange the chiko, twenty head ; they receive them, 
and the girl goes to be married. The elder who receives 
the twenty head as chiko takes out perhaps four cattle 
for himself, he takes out three and gives thepi to the one 
of next importance, then he takes out two and gives the 
next, then he takes out two and gives the next after the 
third, then he takes one and gives to the most important 
of the clansmen (not an elder) of the Bansange, and so he 
goes on giving them one by one to the clansmen, the 
' brothers ' of the girl. There remain perhaps three ; if 
she has grandparents who bore her father and mother they 
give them two of them. The remaining one, which is taken 
by the people of the girl's mother, is called ' The one of the 
mother's girdle ' {nja mukakn owa baina)." 

From these particulars we can see that in many respects 
the mukoa is a beneficent institution. It has acted as a 
unifying force between the various communities, and has 
softened that spirit of hostility which regards every one 
living outside a person's neighbourhood as his enemy. Yet, 
on the other hand, there is something to be said for those 
who, like Mr. Dudley Kidd,^ trace the mental stagnation of 
the Africans to the effects of this clan system. 

3. The Community 

We use the word community as the equivalent for the 
Ila word Chishi, the plural of which is shishi, or generally 

^ For the meaning of Chiko see Vol. II. p. 48: It may incorrectly be 
termed " the bride-price." But notice above, while for lack of a better 
word we translate Kwa by" pay," when they speak of the chiko they 
say pa, " give," not dia, " pay." 

^ See his Kaffir Socialism, p. 258. 


mashi, the prefix ma- being an augmentative. Perhaps the 
word commune would be better, for chishi connotes not 
only the body of people but also the locality in which they 
live. The whole of the Ila country is distributed among 
these communities, which number about eighty. They vary 
in size and population, the largest being Kasenga with 
about 3000 people ; others have no more than 100, some 
even less. They consist sometimes, as at Lubwe and 
Bambwe, of one very large village and several small ones, 
or of a number of villages of more equal size. The land is 
strictly demarcated between the communities (see p. 387). 

The inhabitants of a chishi are made up of two classes — 
freemen and slaves ; the former are Ba-ila par excellence, 
the latter are hazhike, i.e. " the buried," of no status. But 
it is not possible to draw a hard and fast line between them, 
for freemen are liable to be degraded into slavery, while 
slaves may gain their freedom and even be elevated to the 
chief ship. 

The rule of the communities is in the hands of chiefs 
and headmen, all of whom have the name hami (sing, mwami). 
The tendency now is to call the latter bankoshi, a foreign 
term, and so distinguish between them, but the Bv\ila usage 
is to put them more or less on an equality ; the chief is 
more primus inter pares. Each chishi has its chief, and 
each village, or each segment of the large villages, has its 
headman. The chief and headmen form a council which 
settles disputes and judges cases. There are evidences that 
in former times many of the mashi were grouped under one 
supreme chief (see Chap. XXI I.), but to-day there are no chiefs 
with the authority that Munyama and Malumbe wielded. 
Each chishi is entirely independent. Where, as at Kasenga, 
there is a chief over a number of small communities, his 
authority outside his own village is little more than nominal. 

The Chief 

We will first transcribe in English two accounts given 
us in Ila of the selection of a chief : 

" The chiefs and headmen select their fellow-chief in 
an assembly after the funeral of the deceased chief. In 


setting about the selection of the heir, they call over the 
names of his ' children ' and nephews, and then discuss 
among themselves whom they shall install, saying, ' Who 
shall it be ? Let it be a proper man from among his 
"children " or his nephews.' And then comes the argument. 
Because some wish to put in a ' child ' whom they think a 
suitable heir, but others when his name is suggested are 
hesitant and doubtful, and do not haste to agree, or if they 
seem to agree it is not heartily [habaingwila ku ntumha ya 
miozo, ' they will answer from the outside of their hearts '). 
Or they speak out and say, ' He whom you wish to install 
to-day, has he left off doing certain things he is used to 
doing ? Is he really competent to rule [ktilela) the people ? ' 
The others, hearing this, reply : ' Well, name the one you 
consider the proper person.' So they put forward 
the name of their candidate for the chiefship, saying, 
' We wish for So-and-so, one of the deceased's nephews, 
he is the proper person.' The others in their turn 
hesitate, and in silence turn the matter over in their minds, 
and at last say, ' We agree. Let your candidate be 
installed.' So they come to a decision. And the ' child ' 
of the chief, if he does not fall in with it, will leave the 
village : there is no room there for him who thought that 
the chiefship should be his ; there cannot be two chiefs. 
The chiefs can only put one in the deceased's place ; if a 
chief leaves many ' children ' they cannot give the position 
to all. And they do not select one without wealth, for he 
has to pay the deceased's debts, and also the debts of his 
' children ' that the deceased should have paid. It is not 
for them to put in one simply on the ground of relationship ; 
no, the one they install is he whom they see to be the able 
man : that one is the chief. Still it is true that some 
chiefs are chiefs only in name {mbami ihando budio), they 
are unable for chiefship and affairs. But a chief is selected 
for his judgement and consistent good character {buswe 
bwakwe bwa shikwense) ; because they all see that if they 
place him in the position he will be able to rule [lela] all the 
deceased's people. Now when he is installed, he goes to 
seek medicines from the doctors, for his protection against 
warlocks. He protects himself to such an extent that he 


may be said almost to become a warlock himself ; that is 
to say, he gets the genuine medicine, so that if a person 
plans his destruction or having a complaint against him, 
wishes him evil, that person will not rise well from his bed, 
but will rise with a body diseased ; and seeing that, the 
people will know that the chief has drunk medicine and is 
not to be plotted against. That is why chiefs drink these 
medicines when they are installed — to ward off warlocks 
and those with complaints against them, so that they should 
have no strength in their devices. And for building a 
village he also ' eats ' medicine ; not to say, he eats it by 
the mouth, no, but he invites one who has it, saying, 
' Give me medicine for building a new village,' or he says, 
' Come and help me to build.' That is to say, ' Come and 
doctor the site of my village.' The doctor puts in pegs of 
medicine in front of the site of his hut, at the doorway, and 
around it, on every side ; and also all around where the 
stockade of the village is to be. All these medicines he 
provides himself with (lit. ' he eats '), and so by protecting 
himself walema, he gets ' heavy,' dignified ; the people 
recognise his chiefship ; wazosha ku bantu, he is revered, 
feared, by the people. But if he goes too far with his 
medicines they will spoil him : he becomes a warlock. 
Suppose he sets out to follow the warlocks : and wherever 
he hears there is a doctor with medicine for such and such 
an evil purpose goes to him and learns its uses — perhaps 
getting as many as five medicines from him — well, that 
means he is no longer honest, no, he is mixing up with 
witchcraft. Apart from the medicines for self -protection, 
he is desirous of witchcraft. When he has a quarrel with 
a friend, he says, ' Let me fold up my heart [novhunge 
mozo) to hate him ' ; then comes warlockry — the man dies, 
he of whom the chief said, ' As we have quarrelled, let us 
never speak together again.' So the chief becomes a war- 
lock, and never comes back to his former nature, because 
of heaping up medicines. And they say of him, ' The 
chief has a great many medicines for self-protection, and 
also witchcraft-medicine he knows it all, there is none that 
he does not know,' " 

The other account says : 


" He who is to be a chief comes to it while still a lad ; 
people who see him say, ' That boy will be a chief some 
da}'.' ^^'hy ? Because he behaves well to people when he 
has to do wdth them. His subser\dence to the elders in 
Hstening and obe\dng is what makes them say, ' He is a 
chief.' He grows up in that way, \vith his good-heartedness 
to people in gi\'ing and talking nicely ^^ith them always. 
And so it comes to pass that just as people said he would 
be, so in time he becomes. That is the nature of chiefship. 
Others are like this : they are reformed characters {mbampi- 
takaii ku nsoko). A man, say, was a shilucJiea {' a rogue '), 
and then at some time becomes honest, and when they see 
the change in him they say : ' So-and-so is an honest man 
to-day, he has given up such and such habits, to-day he is 
a chief,' i.e. what he does he does in a way worthy of a 
chief. Others again are not fit for chiefship. Many do 
things notwithstanding they were bom for better. One 
becomes a vagabond, another a warlock, another an adulterer. 
Perhaps his younger brother, his inferior, becomes the chief 
and rules many. To rule is to do well in affairs, to give 
food to people. He builds a large village. He gets the 
reputation of being a great chief. Whereas others are 
chiefs only in name (mbami budio ibando), that is to say, 
the name is of chiefship, but if his subject gets into trouble 
he is unable to settle the affair for him, nor is he able to 
pay a fine for him. Such a man is no chief : he has the 
name only : in rnatters pertaining to his position, setthng 
his subjects' affairs and ruhng them [kiilela) in food and 
other things, he is no use. A chief has this said of him, 
' hda mwami ndichenga ' (' In a bargain a chief is worsted '). 
That is to say, if a subject has a thing ever so small the 
chief must give him hberally in exchange. A chief has no 
bad people : no, all his people to him are good. He knows 
them well, just as they know his very nature. If a man 
becomes a chief, and he hears one backbiting him, he says 
nothing ; if one curses him he lets him alone ; if a subject 
destroys his things he takes no notice. As for the chiefs 
of Bwila, in all their villages when they marry women, he 
only who does not like sleeping with women does not sleep 
with his chief's wives ; any one who wishes sleeps with 


them ; the chief knows it, but he does not IdU them, nor 
does he drive them out : all he sa^'s is, ' You, my dependents, 
why do 3'ou sleep \\-ith my wives ? ' " 

To these accounts we may add some remarks by way 
of elucidating the several points. 

The questions of succession are involved \%-ith those of 
inheritance. To succeed a person is kudyaizhina (" to eat 
the name"), the successor is called Mudyczhina ("Eater 
of the name "), and actually adopts the deceased's 
name. A man may have several " names," in the sense 
that he himself has succeeded to positions held pre\T.ouslv 
by two or three men ; in that case his successor mav 
continue to " eat " aU the names, or three other men 
may each take one. Eating the name involves inheriting 
a proportion of the property, but not all. A certain amount 
is called lukono, and is distributed amongst people who are 
said to kona. There is no essential difference between a 
chief and ordinan^- people in these respects, for ever\- man 
and woman has some successor who " eats the name," and, 
if they have property, people who kon<i ; but of course in 
the case of a chief, on account of liis position and wealth, 
it is a more serious affair. 

Wnile the mourning ceremonies for the deceased chief 
are still in progress, a covmcil is held to decide the succes- 
sion and inheritance. This is the business primarilv of 
the clan, assisted by other elders of the commimitv and 
friends. The first step is to select the mudxezhma. 

\Miere the deceased upon his death-bed has expressed 
his \rishes on the subject, tlie matter is comparativelv easv, 
and grave reasons must be adduced for setting his decision 
aside. ^ \Miere, on the other hand, there are several claim- 
ants who, with their partisans, are indefatigable in pressing 
their several claims, vehement discussion and recrimination 
abound, and perhaps not for three days is the selection of 
the principal heir finally made. 

In some districts the heads of two neighbouring com- 

1 Captain Dale reports (April loio) that this method of appointing a 
successor is gro^^-ing in favour. "SMien, at the end of 1917, Kakobela died, 
Shaloba endeavoured to exercise his right in appointing the heir, but the 
communit\- insisted upon ha\-ing the chief nominated by Kakobela on his 


munities have a reciprocal right (or claim the right) to 
appoint each the other's successor. Such an arrangement 
holds between the chiefs of Lubwe and Bambwe ; when 
Shaloba dies Kakobela takes the lead in appointing his 
successor, and then when Kakobela dies the new Shaloba 
appoints his heir. 

The principle of the selection is expressed in the proverb : 
" Mwami t'azhala mwami " (" A chief does not beget a chief "). 
That is to say, no person succeeds to a chiefship merely in 
virtue of his birth, as the son, brother, or nephew of the 
deceased. Among the Nanzela people the succession is 
matrilinear, i.e. descends to the brother, or the sister's son, 
but in Bwila the selection is free ; the brother, son, nephew, 
or uncle may be chosen, but not necessarily so. In theory, 
at least, any person may be chosen ; indeed sometimes a 
slave is elevated to the position. At Kasenga, for example, 
the largest of the communities, the chief Mungaila IL, 
although he represents himself as the nephew of the late 
chief, was really his slave, being what is called an inkudila- 
mudiango (" one who grows up at the doorway "), i.e. a 
boy bought as a slave and reared in his master's house. 
The clan relationship of the deceased chief is respected in 
so far that in selecting the heir an endeavour is made to 
find a suitable successor of the same clan ; thus when a 
Munasolwe dies they seek a Munasolwe in his place. If there 
is none forthcoming they may take, say, a Munampongo, 
but in so doing they cause the Banasolwe to ditaya to the 
Banampongo ; no evil consequences are anticipated to either 
clan. The heir, if of a different clan, may take as a courtesy 
the clan of his predecessor. Another point that may affect 
the selection is the doctrine of reincarnation ; where the 
spirit of a man of parts is believed to have returned to earth 
in the person of a youth with claims to the chiefship, this 
may well weigh down the scale in his favour. One such 
case is known to us. But while the question of clan and 
reincarnation may enter, we believe we are absolutely correct 
in stating that the main principle underl3dng the selection, 
and weighing possibly against strong claims of kinship, is 
the ultimate good of the community. This has always been 
apparent in the numerous cases we have known since the 


old days have passed away and usurpation is rendered im- 
possible. In certain cases men of some status and importance 
as the sons of a wealthy chief have reverted to the position 
of ordinary members of the community on their father's 
death, and we have known the change spoken of with 
commiseration. As our informants quoted above have 
indicated, a man's character, primarily, and his wealth, 
secondarily, are regarded in the selection. They want a 
man, wise, good- hearted, with capabilities for rule and 
conciliation. The question of wealth is also important, for 
according to the proverb, " Btilemu hwa lulu ndisanga " {" The 
fearsomeness of an ant-hill is the long grass upon it "), 
i.e. in the long grass may be lurking a leopard or lion, and 
so you give it a wide berth ; in its application the maxim 
means that what causes a man to be respected is his posses- 
sions. A chief may gain wealth after his installation, but 
he needs to have some to start with in order to fulfil his 

He gains through fines paid to the clan and community 
of which he takes the lion's share ; offerings and gifts from 
black and white ; fees paid by strangers for the right to 
hunt, or fish, or. build ; an occasional share of chiko outside 
his clan or family and a good share of chiko within the same. 

We have heard of instances of the succession being 
determined by means of a trial of skill among competitors. 
One such case was at Itumbi. Shimaponda, the first chief, 
on his death-bed nominated Momba ; but others were 
proposed. To settle the matter several competitions were 
held, in one of which a large-eyed needle was thrown into 
a pool and the candidates were set to fish for it with their 
spears. The one who succeeded in spearing it through the 
eye was to be chief. Momba was the only one who succeeded, 
and he became chief. 

To this heir is allotted the majority of his predecessor's 
wives, cattle, and chattels, and it is his duty, with the 
assistance of others, to distribute the return presents of 
cattle, etc., to those who brought oxen to slaughter at the 
funeral. It occasionally happens, when the deceased is 
more respected than wealthy, that the inheritance is ex- 
hausted, and the heir has to draw on his private herd in 




PT. Ill 

order to satisfy all claims. Each mourner who brings and 
is allowed to slaughter a beast is awarded a portion of the 
estate as his Inkono ; thus a near relative may slaughter a 
big ox and go away with two or three cows ; another man 
may kill a calf out of respect to the deceased's memory and 
lead away a small ox. Occasionally a man who is not 
welcome is told that the inheritance is distributed and he 
must take back his ox : this usually happens when the 
mourner's presence is prompted by avarice. 

Pholo E. ir. Smith. 

Father and Sons. 

The inheritor of " the great name " being chosen, 
another may be elected to " eat the lesser name." To him 
is awarded an inheritance smaller in proportion ; thus, if 
the first heir takes over six wives, the second may only take 
three and a lesser number of cattle ; while even a third 
heir whose claims are strong may be consoled with one hut 
or wife. In addition to the actual inheritance the heir 
takes over all claims pending and all debts due to or by 
the deceased. Frequently a man seizes the opportunity of 
a death to pounce down upon the heir for payment of 
medicine supplied to the deceased possibly ten or fifteen 


years before, or to prefer some equally preposterous claim. 
The heir, therefore, has a most harassing time for months 
after his selection, and being quite unable to distinguish 
accurately between the fictitious and the true is sometimes 
eventually reduced to poverty. 

One of our informants quoted above makes much of the 
" medicines " acquired by the chief which lend him dignity 
and power. ' This must not be taken to mean that all Ba-ila 
chiefs are renowned for their magic prowess. Outside of 
the Bwila proper we are told of Malumbe and Longo (the 
Busala chief tainess), who were great magicians ; and Monze, 
the well-known Batonga chief, was famous far and wide 
for his rain-making powers. But to-day, as far as we know, 
no Ba-ila chief is distinguished in this manner. Still it is 
undoubtedly the case that the chiefs do supplement their 
natural powers of ruling by recourse to the occult, and in 
so doing impress the minds of their people with their superior 

The word applied to a chief's relation to his people is 
ktilela : in the extracts given above we translate it "to 
rule," but it has this only as a secondary meaning. Kulela 
is primarily to nurse, to cherish ; it is the word applied to 
a woman caring for her child. The chief is the father of 
the community ; they are his children, and what he does 
is to Ida them. This involves maintaining their interests 
against neighbouring communities, settling their disputes 
in council with the headmen, helping to pay their debts, 
etc. It is not, we think, an enviable position to rule an 
independent people like the Ba-ila community, especially 
in these days when so much of the chief's power is inevitably 
sapped through the advent of European administration. 
Shaloba hit the nail on the head when he said in an epigram : 
" Bwami mhuzhike" (" Chiefdom is serfdom"). Yet the 
dignity of being the head of a fine community, of having a 
band of drummers to wait upon one, to be eulogised in 
flattering terms on great occasions, of being looked up to as 
the father and arbitrator — these make the position worth 
having. Among his duties and privileges may be mentioned 
the following. He allocates new grazing grounds when 
obtainable. (He cannot touch the old grounds.) It is for 


him to admit or to veto the admittance of strangers as mem- 
bers of the community. He can, in certain circumstances, 
demand a tax to be paid. It is for him to settle the dates 
for wila-ing and bola-ing (see pp. 131 sq.) ; it is his privilege 
to partake first of the first-fruits. It is his duty to take the 
initiative, in conjunction with the diviner, in ridding the 
community of warlocks and witches. In time of war he 
is the commander-in-chief of the army. 

4. Secondary Social Groups 

A covenant of friendship {mulongo) is something greatly 
esteemed among the Ba-ila. Some of the covenants are of 
a private nature and have little social significance. Two 
men, for example, enter into a friendship for the purpose 
of an exchange of wives, which lasts as long as it is agree- 
able to all concerned. Other temporary covenants are 
entered into for the exchange of food and medicines. A 
binding covenant is that of blood brotherhood, named 
mulongo wa maninga. Each of the two men cuts his arm 
and sucks the other's blood, as the sign and seal of their 
vow, binding them not to refuse each other anything. One 
says : " As we thus drink each other's blood, if I come to 
ask anything of you whatsoever, will you refuse me ? " 
The other replies, " No, I will give you anything and every- 
thing you ask of me." Having exchanged this promise, 
they must keep it till death. If one breaks the vow he will 
die kambo ka huloa (" on account of the blood "). 

The most important socially of these friendships is that 
called musela (" the age-grade "). The parties to this are 
all men, and all women, born in the same year ; and those 
who have been through the initiation ceremonies in the 
same year. There is a special term which these people 
apply to each other, musama. To address a person by 
that title who is not of your musela is a fault. A man's, 
or a woman's, particular friends, then, are those of his or 
her age-grade ; the outward sign being in the case of men 
the simultaneous growth of the impumhe, and in the case of 
women the similar stage of development in the breasts. But 
it is also reckoned that as a secondary musela a man or 



woman counts all those who belong to his or her father's and 
mother's age-grade. The members of a musela have certain 
privileges in the way of liberty of speech. As we shall see 
in a subsequent chapter, Ba-ila have a fine sense of personal 
dignity, and it is a grave fault to speak to a man in such a 
way as to bring him into ridicule, or to curse him. Now 
these rules are in abeyance when one man is addressing 
another of the same musela. As one of our informants 
expresses it : " The members of a musela will curse each 
other always with bad curses. They will run each other 
down. If one of them becomes poor or a coward or a lazy 
person, they will always deride him ; if he is brave [mukadi) 
his fellows will love him very much. But a lazy one, no, 
they do not love him. He who brings them into disrepute, 
how can they love him ? The mitsela must always be 
strong in this way. If you are not strong to bear being 
derided and cursed by your fellows, you will weep tears, 
even if you are already of mature age. If you are not 
strong in heart to face the curses with which your friends 
curse you, you will revolt and perhaps deny your musela. 
The musela of your father is yours also ; you may 
curse him just as his fellows curse him, saying : ' You 
lay with your mother. You lay with your sister.' You 
need not be afraid ; not a bit. Even if it be a chief 
of the same musela with your father or mother, you may 
curse him just as you curse one of your own age-grade. 
That is how a musela is strong in not being scrupulous 
about elders. As your father's and mother's age-grades 
are also your own, you will curse all their members as you 
curse your own — with curses, calumnies, derogations, 
ridiculings, and mockings at them and their belongings. 
There is a saying : Misela, misela (' There are age-grades, 
and age-grades ') ; one may be of energetic people, another 
of lazy-bones ; others again hard-hearted, or courageous ; 
one may be of lazy vagabonds, people with nothing {bapushi 
hapapa), like bare trees stripped of their bark, and another 
may be all of chiefs, having many possessions. These last 
when one of their fellows gets into trouble, perhaps because 
he has cursed those of another age-grade, will help him to 
pay." This is the social function of the musela : it is a 



PT. Ill 

mutual-aid societj^, giving assistance to its members when 
needed. It is possible for a man to get into an age-grade ' 
not his own properly, but only by making presents to the 



(a) Those named from animals, plants, or things 

Name of Clan. 


Place the Clan is 
associated with. 


Banamwala (te- 
mbaula name) 

Chibizi, zebra 




Nyungwe, capped wheat- 
Timba, grysbok 






Banamukubi,^ or 

Shikubi, vulture 

Ngoma (some say 

Banashikubi, or 





Momba, the ground horn- 



Banashamayoba, or 

Nanja, the lechwe 



Bananyovu, or 

Muzovu, elephant and 

Banamoba, or 

Shankole, wart-hog ^■ 





Sulwe, the hare 




Induba; the plantain- 



Bananzoka, or 

Itoshi, the river-monster 




Mubondo, the barbel-fish 



Bono, or 

Ing'ombe, cattle 



Banasolwe,^ or 

Solwe, the honey-guide 

Bambwe and 


Buchi, honey 




Inzhiba, ring-dove 



Banakangvhuma, or 

Kangvhuma, a palm 



Busanje, palm-leaves 



Suntwe, hyaena 


^ Some of this clan are called Bana-Lubunda, others Ba-Nakalomwe, 
from those places. 

^ The elephant and wart-hog are regarded as close relations. 

* The Banasolwe are nicknamed " liars " because of the reputation of 
the honey-guide. 




Name of Clan. 


Place the Clan is 
associated with. 



Bimbe, kite 




Impongo, goat 



Banamaila/ or 

Maila, grain 



Bankontwe,* or 

Nkontwe, baboon 

lyanga (? Isanti) 



Shichifumbula, scavenger 




Banankalamo, or 

Nkalamo, or Shumbwa, 


Banashumbwa, or 


Banashanza (te- 

mbaula name) 


Banaumpe, or 

Umpe, wild dog 



Banamayovu, or 

Mayovu, name of a 




which is said not 
shake in the wind 




Inkala, crab 



Bananjuni, or 

Injuni, birds 




Banambwa, or 

Mbwa, a dog 


Kabwa, a pup 



Basange, or 

Musange, rain 

A Nangombe 

Bansange, or 
Bana-Leza ' 

29. Banankonze, or 
Banashibwanga/ or 

30. Banachiwena, or 

31. Batembozhi 

32. Bananachindwe, or 

33. Banantite 

34. Banasokwe 

35. Banachulu ^ 

36. Bananshimba * 

37. Bananyati,' or 
Banamusungwa, or 
Banamainga, or 

(Others say, Shapidio, 
Konze, the hartebeest 

Chiwena, crocodile 
Kotale, crocodile 

Intembozhi, wasp 


Nakafwifwi, oribi 


Intite, name of a small bird 


Sokwe, monkey 


Mulanzhi, termite 


Inshimba, genet 


Munyati, buffalo 


(Probably Busala) 


1 Said to be so named because it originated in the Chimbulamukoa 
country, whence came grain. 

' Members of this are called " baboons " [bapombo), also " Lazy-folk," 
see the tale No. 4, Chap. XXVIII. Part i. 

^ We have heard a disreputable member of this clan boast of being a 
relation of the Creator (Leza). 

* Name derived from the horn of the antelope being used as a receptacle 
for medicine {bwanga). 

^ Chulu = ant-heap. 

^ This clan is said to have been formed by division from the Bana-Leza. 

' See p. 288. 



PT. Ill 

Name of Clan. 


Place the Clan is 
associated with. 



Mwaba, jackal 


Banachisakabale, or 

Chisakabale, palm-bush 


Lubale, palm-leaf 



Ibuzu, baobab tree 



Masale, kind of grass 



Kabwinde, squirrel 



Banamankonte ^ 

Mankonte, kind of edible 




Chikwangala, crow 



Shimunyeu, kind of ant 



Mawi, wild orange 



Chivhubwe, hippo 



Kabanzi, scorpion 



Impata, kind of fish 



Shinyimba, buffalo 




Kabundi, hornet 



Banashimwetwa, or 

Mubondo, barbel (others 



say Konze, hartebeest) 


Banansefu, or 

Musefu, eland 

(b) Those named from places : 

54, Banachazhi, or Bachazhi (Totem : munjile, wild-pig) ; 55, Basanga 
(Totem : mwino, salt) ; 56, Banakabanga ; 57, Bamambwe ; ^ 58, Banalu- 
longa ; 59, Banachitumbi ; 60, Banachilala ; 61, Banichila ; 62, Bana- 
mwazi ; 63, Banachibunzi ; 64, Banakaulizhi ; 65, Bakaundu ; 66, 
Banachomba ; 67, Banashikantengwa. 

(c) Those named from persons : 

68, Bana-Bunga ; 69, Bana-Chungwa ; 70, Bana-Shikambe ; 71, 
Bana-Maibwe ; 72, Bana-Nawi ; 73, Bana-Kaindu ; 74, Bana-Kasoke 
(Totem : musaka, wild dog) ; 75, Bana-Lwanza (Totem : Nawuwane, 
crested crane) ; 76, Banasha-Lwembe ; 77, Bana-Mpande ; 78, Ba- 
Ntanga, or Banantanga (Totem : Kabwenga, hyaena) ; 79, Bana-Malumbe ; 
80, Bana-Mazungwe ; 81, Bana-Kanyonga ; 82, Bana-Kalamba ; 83, 
Bana-Mwinga ; 84, Bana-Munombwe (Totem : munyumbwi, gnu). 

(d) The following are doubtful : 

85, Ba-Tengi^ (Totem: muzovu, elephant, foreign) ; 86, Ba-Tenda ; 
87, Ba-Tunga (Totem is water, or fish) ; 88, Ba-Chimba (Totem : mpata, a 
small fish) ; 89, Ba-Yowa (Totem : rhinoceros) ; 90, Banavhula (Totem : 
mukulo, waterbuck) ; 91, Banzhamba (Totem : isekele, a fish) ; 92, 
Bakapi (Totem: nachisekwe, wild goose); 93, Ba-Tembo (Totem: 
Shiluwe, leopard). 

1 Others say the clan derives its name from Mankonte, who was chief 
at Chikome. 

2 This clan is nicknamed Banashibonwanuma : " Those whose back is 
never seen (in battle) " ; also Banashishiikudya, see p. 288. 

3 It was suggested that this name was derived from their being so 
few in number (Bakaiewg'Mdika) . 


bULiAL UK(a 







Some Baluba clans : 

Banangonyi * 

Ngonyi, a bird 



Bananzoka * 


Banambwa * 



A river 

Batunga * 

Any river fish 

Benampongo * 


Benankalamo * 




Batembozhi * 


Some Batema i 

md Walenje clans 



Banenkalamo * 


Banamaila * ) 




Benemaila J 



Banambwa * 


Banaumpe * 

Wild dog 

Baneng'ombe * 




Batembozhi * 


Bananzofu * 


Banampongo * 


Banachulu ) * 




Benechulu J 


The vulva 


Some Balamba 

(Badima) clans : 



Banambwa * 



The anus 



Banamaila * 





Bark of tree 


The vagina 

Among the Bashamba are Benembwa * and Benenyama. 
One Bambwela clan is Bambuzhi (Totem : goat) . 

Among the Mankoya are Banangoyne * (Totem : hawk) and Balembu 
(Totem : bee). 

* These are found also among Ba-ila. 





in 1915.I 





















^ These figures are only approximate ; they are under- rather than 



PT. Ill 



in 1915. 









„ (Bambo) 




»> ti 




Ba-ila and Baluba 




) » it 




a t y 




, , ,, 




it » > 




t > n 




. t ft 




1 1 n 




t y ft 




y f tt 





y > f f 




,, (Balumbu) 




,, (Babizhi) 




ft ) y 




> » ft 




,, (Balundwe) 




J > J > 




, , , , 

Bwengwa * 







»» i> 




II 11 



1 96 1 

II )» 




> > II 




, , ,, 




Mixed with Basala 


Monze (Mutonga) 


Ba-ila (Balundwe) 
and Batonga. 
Latter in majority 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 
and Baluba 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 
and Baluba 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 
and Baluba 




Ba-ila, mixed with 
Banduwe and 


Under Kayingu ^ 



Balambwa, and nine 


Ba-ila (Bambala) 

• other small com- 






Ba-ila (Bambala) 
and Baluba 




Ba-ila and Baluba 




„ (Bambala) 




>j II 










in 1915. 





Ba-ila (Bambala) 
and Baluba 




Ba-ila and Baluba 




>t > t 








Ba-ila with Man- 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 
with Mankoya 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 




> 1 » 




1 1 t 




} t > 




I } i 




J J » 




> I > 




} t 1 
















Ba-ila (Bambala) 
and Batema 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 
and Baluba 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 
and Batema 




Ba-ila (Bambala) 




i» It 












f f 













Under various 
chiefs, number 






One of the most difficult things for a newcomer among the 
Ba-ila'to understand is their system of relationship. He 
learns very soon that tata means " my father," mukwesu, 
" my brother," mwanangu, " my child," but those terms 
only seem to confuse matters, for he quickly finds that a 
man has many fathers, many mothers, and, although he 
may not be married, a host of children, and even grand- 
children ; while as for his brothers, their name is legion. 
When a young man tells you that a , certain woman old 
enough to be his mother is his child, you are baffled, and 
he does not make things clearer by explaining that she is 
his child because his great-grandfather's brother begat her 
father. The secret of understanding the system is first of 
all to rid one's mind of the terms one is used to, and to 
grasp firml}^ the principle that the words tata and bama do 
not mean what father and mother mean to us, but rather 
indicate certain positions in a table of genealogy ; and the 
same with regard to mwanangu, mukwesu, etc. etc. 

The system in vogue among the Ba-ila is one common 
to a great many peoples in different parts of the world, 
and is known as the Classificatory system. In this system 
the relationships are grouped into large categories labelled 
"Grandparent," "Father," "Mother," "Brother," "Child," 
" Grandchild." 

The system is very much complicated by the fact that 
the terms applied vary according as — 

I. Whether I am the person speaking, or spoken to, 
or spoken of. 



2. Whether I am directly addressing my relation or 
simply referring to him or her. 

3. Whether I am speaking of myself as one person, or 
including others with myself, i.e. whether I use " I " or 
" we," " my," " our," etc. 

4. Whether the speaker is older or younger than the 
person spoken to or of. 

5. Whether the person speaking, or the person spoken 
to, is male or female. 

To make it all clear to our readers we have prepared 
lists and genealogical tables which may be consulted while 
reading the following exposition. In the lists we carefully 
distinguish between the term used in direct address and 
that used in mere reference ; we also give the full forms 
used for " my relation," " your relation," etc. 

To begin with contemporaries, i.e. those of the same 
generation with myself. There is no word which standing 
by itself means " brother." Mukwesu means " our brother " 
or " our sister," but is used by one person speaking, just 
as many English people say " our Sam." When speaking 
to a person, I say munyoko (" thy brother "), and I refer 
to a man's brother as munina. Munyokwesu would be used 
when I definitely associate others with myself in speaking 
of our brother ; thus, if I were speaking to a stranger of my 
brother I should say " Mukwesu did so and so " ; but if I 
w^ere conversing with some of my brothers I should say, in 
reference to another brother, munyokwesu. 

This term mukwesu is applied in the first place to all the 
children of my father, whether of the same mother or not, 
but it cannot be applied indiscriminately. If my brother 
is older than I, I, being a male, properly call him mukando 
wangu {" my great one "), i.e. my elder, if he is younger 
than I, I call him mwanichangu (" my junior "). If I am 
a female, I give these names to my sisters, elder and younger 
respectively, but not to my brother. I call him mulomhwana 
wangu, or, as the Nanzela people say, muchizi angu. I, 
being a female, call each of my brothers mulomhwana wangu 
(" my man ") ; but, being a female, I do not so call my 
sisters ; my elder sister is mukando wangu, my younger 
sister is mwanichangu. If, on the other hand, I am a male. 


I do not apply those terms to my sisters ; but I call her by 
the same name that she calls me, i.e. muchizi angu ; or if 
I speak the true Ila, I say mukaintu wangu (" my woman "). 
These terms are used in referring to my brothers and sisters, 
not to them directly. It is strictly taboo for me to address 
any of them, or for them to address me, as mukwesu, or 
muchizi angu, or mulomhwana wangu ; I must speak to 
them, and they to me, by name. 

I also apply the same terms to the children of my 
father's brothers, and to the children of my mother's sisters, 
i.e. to my ortho-cousins. But there is a difference between 
these and the children of my mother's brother and of my 
father's sister, i.e. my cross-cousins. Of these latter, my 
mother's brother's children are bana-bachisha {" children of 
my uncles ") ; all other cousins are bakwesu, but I do not 
address any cross-cousin as mukwesu, nor by name. If I am 
a male, I address my male cross-cousin as mulongwangu 
{" my friend "), and my female cross-cousin as mwinangu 
{" my wife ") ; if I am a female I address him as mulumi 
angu (" my husband "), and her as mukazhima (" my fellow- 
wife "), that being the proper term used by one wife of a 
polygamist to another. This form of address found here 
and elsewhere is one of the most curious things in the 
system. Why should the children of a man and his sister 
respectively address each other as man and wife ? It is 
because, according to clan rules, they might marry. Inter- 
course between the children of two sisters is regarded as 
incestuous because they have the same totem, but these 
are of different clans, as may be shown in a diagram, where 
A' is the brother. A" is the sister, A standing for the totem 
clan. A' marries B ; A" is married by C, and the children, 
inheriting the mother's clan, are B" and A'" respectively. 
Thus : 

A' A" 

A' — B C — A" 

B" A'" 

In such a case, as there is a possibility of A'" and B" marrying, 
we can understand why they should address each other as 
husband and wife. 


But, as a matter of fact, latter-day custom does not 
allow such marriages ; while I may marry the daughter of 
my father's sister, I may not marry the daughter of my 
mother's brother. I use the same terms of address to my 
mother's brother's children as to my father's sister's children ; 
but though I address my mother's brother's daughter as 
mwinangit (" my wife "), and she addresses me as mulumi 
angu ("my husband"), it does not imply that commerce 
between us would now be allowed. Of the four possible 
cousin-marriages, therefore, the Ba-ila nowadays only 
allow one. I may marry my father's sister's daughter, 
but as, according to the rules of relationship, she is 
mukwesu to me, I ought not to marry her. 

Turning now to the generation above me : I call not 
only my own father but also his brothers tata (" my father "), 
and address each of them as ta — a shortened form of lata. 
My mother and her sisters and my father's sisters I call all 
hama (" my mother "). The latter title is really in the 
plural number and means " my mothers " ; it is the plural 
of respect. I address all these as ma. If I wish to dis- 
tinguish among " my fathers," I may call my father's elder 
brother tata mukando (" my big father "), and his younger 
brother tata mwaniche ("my junior father"). I may 
distinguish " my mothers " in the same way. But one 
" mother " has a term peculiar to herself ; this is my father's 
sister (elder or younger), who is tata mukaintu (" my female 
father"). It is only b}^ that curious term that the Ba-ila 
express paternal " aunt." 

It is also in accordance with the principles of the system 
that I give the name achisha (" my uncle ") to the brother 
of my mother only. This person is my most important 
relation, and it is easy to see why. Under a strict clan- 
system, my father and my mother have different totems, 
else they could not have married ; inheriting as I do 
my mother's clan, her kin are of more importance to me 
than my father's ; indeed at some time I might not have 
known my father or his clan. My mother's brother then 
stands as my natural guardian. To this day among the 
Ba-ila, although they have long since outgrown any stage 
when the father is unknown or disregarded, the mother's 


brother is a personage of vast importance ; having the 
power even of hfe and death over his nephews and nieces, 
which no other relations, not even the parents, have ; he is 
to be held in honour even above the father. This is 
avunculi potestas, which among the Ba-ila is greater than. 
patria potestas. I speak of him as uachisha, and in address 
say achisha. I may refer to him am'ong his other nephews 
and nieces as shimuzesu (which is also an honorific title I 
may give to other people whom I respect very highly) ; 
other people will speak of shimuzhabo (" his uncle "). 

In the second generation above me I give the name 
nkakangu to my mother's and father's parents, and also 
to their brothers and sisters. That is, I regard as my 
grandparents all the parents of those who stand in the 
relation of father, mother, and uncle to me ; my father's 
father, father's father's brother and sister ; my father's 
mother, father's mother's brother and sister ; my mother's 
father, mother's father's brother and sister ; my mother's 
mother, and my mother's mother's brother and sister. 

In the generation above this I give the name tata and 
hama to all who stand in the relation of father and mother 
to those I call nkakangu. There is no term answering to 
great - grandparent ; my great - grandparents are "my. 
mother " and " my father." Similarly in the generation 
below me, I give the name mwanangu {" my child ") to my 
own child, male or female ; and my children's children are 
bazukuzhi bangu (" my grandchildren ") ; and in the next 
generation I call my great-grandchildren banangu (" my 
children"). Thus the special relationships may be said 
to be limited to the two generations above me : tata, 
nkakangu ; and the two below me, mwanangu, muzukuzhi 
angu ; the third above is tata and bama ; the third below 
me is mwanangu. The next above is nkakangu again, and 
the next below is muzukuzhi angu again ; and so on ad 
infinitum. But when I get back hke that I am not likely 
to remember the names, and content myself with referring 
to them as maushesu {" our fathers ") ; the ma- being a 
prefix indicating a great number. 

The name mwanangu (" my child ") I give not only to 
my own children, but also to the children of all who stand 


in the relation of mukwesu to me. I address my children 
by name, or each as mwanangu. My first-born, whether 
son or daughter, I distinguish by addressing as musama 
(" my fellow, ni}/ equal "), that being the epithet I apply 
to all who are of my musela, i.e. of the same age as myself. 

XhereJSj of course, _one exception to what has just been 
said. My sister's children are not banangu (" my children") ; 
I am their jmcle and each of them is mwiwangu ("my 
nephew " or " my niece "). 

The children of all who stand in the relation of banangu 
are hazukuzhi bangii {" my grandchildren "). The children 
of my nephews and nieces, i.e. bewa bangu, are not my 
grandnephews and grandnieces, but my " grandchildren " 
also. This clears the way for the next generation, so that 
being the grandchildren of the second line above them, 
they may be the grandparents of the second line below 

In regard to the grandchildren, we may notice here the 
recurrence of the curious address applied, as we have seen, 
to my cousins. I being a male address my granddaughter 
as mwinangu (" my wife "), and my grandson as mulo- 
ngwangu (" my friend ") ; if I am a female I address my 
grandson as mulumi angu and my granddaughter as muka- 
zhima ("my fellow-wife"). This does not now mean that 
I may marry them or that I have any rights whatever over 
their persons. 

Going back for a moment, we may trace the collateral 
descent from my great-great-grandfather. Each of his sons 
stands as tata to me ; and their sons should be bankakangu, 
but they are not all so. My father's father's brothers are 
bankakangu, but his father's brother's children stand to me 
as bakwesu {" my brothers "). That is in accordance with 
the rule that makes the children of my " fathers " my 
" brothers " ; it is a breaking of the rule when my grand- 
father, who is the son of tata is called nkakangu ; he should 
by rule be mukwesu ; but there the logic of the system 
breaks down, as it would be too absurd to call my grand- 
father " my brother." My grandfather's father's brothers 
are my " fathers " ; their children are bakwesu (" my 
brothers ") ; their grandchildren are " my children," and 



their children are my grandchildren. Their children again 
are my children, and theirs again are my grandchildren. 
This brings them into line with my grandchildren by direct 
descent (see Table I.). 

The whole system, therefore, works out with marvellous 
exactitude and symmetry. We may arrange the generations 
thus : 

1. Nkakangu. 

2. Tata. 

3. Nkakangu. 

4. Tata. 

5. SELF. 

6. Mwanangu. 

7. Muzukuzhi angu. 

8. Mwanangu. 

9. Muzukuzhi angu. 

Our exposition, with its necessary repetition of terms, 
may seem confused and confusing, but if we put all these 
relationships in the form of a table, showing the nine 
generations just enumerated, it will be seen how easy is the 
system when once graphically illustrated. The tables we 
now give are not fanciful, but are based upon Tables No. 4 
and 5, which are the actual genealogies of people well 
known to us. 





i^ . bo 










- P 










S S 





!c P 
N . bO 







p p c 

P P 













S S 










- ^ 








— cj — 









- ^ 



s . 






-a — 


« 5 

!> CO 

5 G 




=5 § 


— ^ — 






















S P 



M o3 





9 a 










Tata. Bama. Bam 

esu (f.). Self. Mukwesu. Mukw 

1 i 
angu. Mwanangu. Mwanangu. Mwa 

zhi Muzukuzhi 

I. angu. 

p ^ 

& & 

N ™ 










— d 

p' P 
S bo 








— a — 







g s 















C a! 

03 . -|J . 




- P 




-C - 




P fl 


be 03 





5 '-C3 

P N 



o3 3 


^ M 


■^ N 







_ bO 










■ ^ 




- cu . 







■ ^ rP 

03 tn 

• o! tn 



. ^. 


3 -^ ?„ 

be N . bo 

c B 3 S 

o3 ^-^ be rt 

k P ^ 








.si § 




be N . bo 

P P P P 

o3 ^ be 03 

P P P P 

o3 N o3 oi 





■ o3 _ 


P 3 

-r^ bO- 

S c 





TABLE No. 3 

Ila Table of Relationship 

Ila Terms in First 

Person Singular : 











Exact Relationship given 
in English. 

Father's father 
Father's mother 

Father's father's 

Father's mother's 

Father's father's 

Father's mother's 

Mother's father 

Mother's mother 

Mother's father's 

Mother's mother's 

Mother's father's 

Mother's mother's 

Father's father's 

father's father 
Father's father's 

father's mother 
Father's mother's 

father's father, 

mother, etc. 
Father's father's 

father's father's 

Father's father's 

father's father's 

Mother's father's 

father's father 

and mother 
Mother's father's 

father's father's 

Father's elder 


Terms used in 
Direct Address. 



Variations for any reason 

in the Terms given in 

Column I. 

Variation in person : 

Nkakako (thy 

Nkakakwe (his 

Nkaliesu (our 

Nkakenu (your 

Nkakabo (their 

Bankakangu (my 

Bankakako (thy 

Bankakakwe (his 

Bankakesu (our 

grandparents ) 
Bankakenu (your 

Bankakabo (their 


Tata mukando 



PT. Ill 

Table No. 3 — continued 

I la Terms in First 

Person Singular : 


Exact Relationship given 
in English. 

Terms used in 
Direct Address. 

Variations for any reason 

in the Terms given in 

Column I. 



Father's younger 



Tata mwaniche 


Father's father's 

Variation in person : 


Mother's father's 

Uso (thy father) 
Ushe (his father) 


Father's father's 
father's brother 

Ushesu (our father) 
(or Tatesu) 


Mother's father's 

Ushenu (your 
father) ^ 

sister's son 


Father's mother's 
sister's son 

Ushabo (their 


Mother's father's 
brother's son 

Batata (my fathers) 
Bauso (thy fathers) 


Father's mother's 
brother's son 

Baushe (his fathers) 
Baushesu (our 


Father's father's 
sister's son 

Baushenu (your 

Baushabo (their 






Elder : bama ba- 
kando, or tata 1 

Younger : bama 


Father's sister 


baniche, or tata 


Elder : bama ba- 


Mother's sister 


Yolinger : bama 

Variation in person : 


Mother's father's 
sister's daughter 

Banoko, baina, ba- 
nokwesu, bano- 


Father's mother's 
sister's daughter 

kwenu, bano- 


Father's father's 
sister's daughter 

Alternative forms : 
Noko, nina, nok- 


Mother's mother's 
sister's daughter 

wesu, nokwenu, 
nokwabo (or 
Elder : Uachisha 



Mother's brother 



Younger : Uachisha 

Alternative forms : 
Shimuzesu (my or 

our uncle) 




Table No. 3 — continued 

Ila Terms in First 

Person Singular : 



Exact Relationship given 
in English. 

Mukwesu 37 




Terms used in 
Direct Address. 

Elder brother 

Elder sister 

Younger brother 

Younger sister 



Father's elder 
brother s son 

Father's elder 

brother's daughter 

By name 

B}' name 

By name 

By name 

By name 

By name 

Variations for any reason 

in the Terms given in 

Column I. 

Shimuzenu (thy or 
your uncle), or 

Shimuzhabo (his 

(their uncle) 

Muchizi angu, or 
wangu (if I'm a 

Mukando wangu (if 
I'm a male) 

Muchizi angu, or 
mukaintu wangu 
(if I'm a male) 

Mukando wangu, or 

mwenzuma (if I'm 

a female) 

I'm a male) 

Muchizi angu, 
wangu (if I'm a 

I'm a female) 

Muchizi angu, 
mukaintu wangu 
(if I'm a male) 

Mukwesu mukando 
or mukando 

wangu (if I'm a 
male and he is 

Muchizi angu, or 
wangu (if I'm a 

Mukwesu mukando 
or mukando 

wangu (if I'm a 
female and she is 

Muchizi angu, or 
mukaintu angu 
(if I'm a male) 







?T. Ill 

Table No. 3 — continued 

I la Terms in First 

Person Singular : 


Exact Relationship given 
in English. 

Terms used in 
Direct Address. 

Variations for any reason 

in the Terms given in 

Column I. 


Mwanichangu (if 
I'm a male and 
he is younger 

Mukwesu 43 

Father's younger 

By name 

than I) 

brother's son 

Muchizi angu, or 
wangu (if I'm a 

Muchizi angu, or 
mukaintu angu 
(if I'm a male) 


Father s younger 

By name 

Mwanichangu (if 


I'm a female and 


she is younger 


than I) 


Father's elder 


and younger 

(if I'm a 

sister's son 

Mulumi angu 


(if I'm a 


Father s elder and 

Mwinangu (if 


younger sister's 

I'm a male) 


Mukazhima (if 
I'm a fe- 

Mukando wangu (if 
I'm a male and 
he is older than 
I), mwanichangu 


Mother's elder 

By name < 

(if younger) 

and younger 

Muchizi angu, or 

sister's son 

wangu (if I'm a 




Mukando wangu (if 
I'm a female and 
she is older than 


Mother's elder and 

By name 

I), mwanichangu 

younger sister's 

(if younger) 


Muchizi angu, or 
mukaintu wangu 


(if I'm a male) 


Father's father's 

By name 

Variations in person : 

father's brother's 

Singular : 

son and daughter 

Mukwesu (my) 


Father's father's 
sister's son's son 
and daughter 

By name 




Table No. 3 — continued 

Ila Terms in First 

Person Singular : 

" M>0' 

Exact Relationship given 
in English. 

Terms used in 
Direct Address. 

Variations for any reason 

in the Terms given in 

Cohimn i. 

Mukwesu 51 

Mother's father's 

By name 

Munyoko (thy) 

sister's son's and 

Munina (his) 

daughter's son 

Munyokwesu (our) 

and daughter 

Munyokwenu (your) 


Mother's father's 

By name 


brother's son's 

Plural : 

and daughter's 

Bakwesu (my) 

son and 

Banyoko (thy) 


Banina (his) 
Banyokwesu (our) 
Banyokwenu (your) 
Banyokwabo (their) 

Mwanaisha 53 

Mother's brother's 


Variation in person : 


elder and 

(if I'm a 

Singular : 


younger son 


Mwanaisha (my) 


Mulumi angu 

Mwanamuzenu (thy 

Mwana wa 

(if I'm a 

and your) 




'Mwinangu (if 

(his and their) 


Mother's brother's 

I'm a male) 


elder and 

- Mukazhima (if 

Plural : 

younger daughter 

I'm a fe- 

Bana ba chisha 


Bana ba muzenu 

Bana ba muzhabo 

Bana ba muzeseshu 

Bana ba muzezenu 

Bana ba muzha- 

babo (their) 

Mwanangu 55 

Eldest son 

Musama (by 


Eldest daughter 

mother and 
father, if it 
is the eldest 
child; other- 
wise, Mwa- 


Younger son 



Younger daughter 


rMwana mukando 


Elder brother's 

1 1 

angu (if I'm a 


1 male) 
Mwana m u 1 0- 


Elder brother's 


mbwana wangu 


(if I'm a female) 



Table No. 3 — continued 

PT. Ill 

I la Terms in 

. Person Sing 



ular : 

Exact Relationship given 
in English. 

Terms used in 
Direct Address. 

Variations for any reason 

in the Terms given in 

Column I. 

Mwana mwani- 

changu (if I'm a 



Younger brother's 


Mwana mulo- 
mbwana wangu 
V (if I'm a female) 


Younger brother's 

> J 

» t 


Father's elder and 
younger brother's 
son's and daugh- 
ter's son and 

By name 


Father's elder and 
younger sister's 
son's and daugh- 
ter's son and 

By name 


Mother's elder and 
young sister's 
son's and daugh- 
ter's son and 

By name 



Mother's elder and 
younger brother's 
son's and daugh- 
ter's son and 

By name 


Mother's father's 
brother's and 
sister's son's 
and daughter's 
son's and daugh- 
ter's son and 
daughter, etc. 



Father's father's 
brother's and 
sister's son's 
and daughter's 
son's son, etc. 


Variations in person. 

Singular : 
Mwanangu (my) 
Mwanako (thy) 
Mwanakwe (his) 


Sister's son's and 
daughter's son's 
son and daugh- 
ter, etc. 


Mwanesu (our) 
Mwanenu (your) 
Mwanabo (their) 
Plural : 


Sister's son and 
daughter (when 
I'm a female) 


Banangu (my) 
Banakwe (his) 


Father's father's 
father's brother's 
son's and daugh- 
ter's son and 


Banesu (our) 
Banenu (your) 
Banabo (their) 




Table No. 3 — continued 

I la Terms in 
Person Singi 


Exact Relationship given 
in English. 

Terms used in 
Direct Addiess. 

Variations for any reason 
in the Terms given in 

" My." 

Column I. 



Elder sister's son 

By name, if 

Variationsin person. 


Elder sister's 

I'm a male ; 

Singular : 


if I'm a 

Mwiwangu (my) 



Younger sister's 

female, I 

Mwiwako (thy) 


say Mwa- 

Mwiwakwe (his) 


Younger sister's 




Mwiwesu (our) 
Mwiwenu (your) 
Mwiwabo (their) 

Plural : 
Bewa bangu (my) 
Bewa bako (thy) 
Bewa bakwe (his) 
Bewa besu (our) 
Bewa benu (your) 
Bewa babo (their) 



Son's and daugh- 



ter's son 

(if I'm a 
Mulumi angu 
(if I'm a 


Son's and daugh- 
ter's daughter 

Mwinangu (if 
I'm a male) 

Mukazhima (if 
I'm a fe- 


Father's sister's 
and brother's 
son's son's son 
and daughter, 

As above 


Father's sister's 
and brother's 
son's daughter's 
son and daughter 

As above 



Mother's sister's 
and brother's 
son's son's son 
and daughter 

As above 


Mother's sister's 
and brother's 
son's daughter's 
son and daughter 

As above 


Father's and 
mother's father's 
brother's son's 
and daughter's 
son and daughter 

As above 



PT. Ill 

Table No. 3 — continued 

Ila Terms in First 

Person Singular. 

" My." 

Muzukuzhi 80 



Exact Relationship given 
in English. 

Elder and younger 
sister's son's and 
daughter's son 
and daughter 

Elder and younger 
brother's son's 
and daughter's 
son and daughter 

Father's father's 
father's brother's 
son's and daugh- 
ter's son's son 
and daughter, 

Terms used in 
Direct Address. 

As above 

As above 

. As above 

Variations for any reason 

in the Terms given in 

Column I. 






























I— t 





u ..^ 

• cj • 

• c O 


yiS e- 

L) ^^ 













1— 1 























<V O 

^ -J 

rt o 





. c .^ 

■H'n r- 






. rt ^^ 

^^ *^ , • 





. S'T 



• -^ 




. s^ 


■n S"- 


■r( ^ 


— COi> 


. "J .— . 

— nt^ 



N B 


O ' 

>^ - " ^ '^ j:^ '3 

-10 E S Si c rt-- 3 S" 

d rt 2 







a "^ 









-» p 


^ CSC- 

J 5 / 


■> W p 

ut A— in ■=- 



HI M^ 






o> p — n 
-pjvE in 































_«* G 







(IJJ2 e 






C _, 5 o\ 


(0 v> 



— «?-G 

■•3 E-g-^ 
- - ^ "'H 


n M 



-00 rti 

CO— • 



-(0 s 

















-m S 

00 ii -_ 




• O 


« 6 


« G 


_oo c 






TABLE No. 6 

Showing Relationship between No. 7 and others in 
Genealogical Table No. 5 


No. in 

Table 3. 

No. 7 in Relation to No. 


and addresses him 
or her as 



Mnzhoka (m.) 





Kachinka (m.) 

Muzukuzhi akwe 

Nkaka, nkambo 



Leshodi (m.) 





Nankua (f.) 





Shakezwa (m.) 






Namashikwe (m.) 





Mbambo (f.) 


By name 



Kachinka (m.) 


By name 



Mukamuluti (f.) 


By name 



Shimansi (m.) 


Mulumi angu 



Katende (ra.) 


Mulumi angu 



Mushaka (m.) 


Mulumi angu 



Mukamasole (f.) 


By name 



Nachiloba (f.) 





Eni (f.) 





Shimashikwe (m.) 





Shimunza (m.) 





Mbambo 's son 





Mbambo's daughter 





Kachinka's son 




2 2 . 

Kachinka's daughter 





Shimansi's daughter 


By name 



Shimansi's son 


By name 





By name 



Mukamasole's son 


By name 



Nachiloba's daughter 





Nachiloba's son 


Mulumi angu 



Eni's daughter 





Eni's son 


Mulumi angu 



Shimashikwe's son 


Mulumi angu 








Shimunza's daughter 





Shimunza's son 


Mulumi angu 



Mbambo's son's 





Mbambo's daughter's 


Mulumi angu 



Kachinka's son's son 


Mulumi angu 



Kachinka's daughter's 





Shimansi's daughter's 


Mulumi angu 



Shimansi's son's 





daughter's son 


Mulumi angu 




daughter's daughter 





PT. Ill 

TABLE No. 7 

Showing Relationship betwken No. 27 and others in Genealogical 
Table No. 4, and the same Person (No. 17) to others in Genea- 
logical Table No. 5 

No. in 

No. 27 in relation to No. 


and addresses him 

Table 3. 

or her as 



Luchacha (m.) 

Muzukuzhi akwe 

Nkaka, Nkambo 



Kayobe (m.) 





Nyama (m.) 





Mudimbwa (m.) 





Chimwadi (m.) 

Muzukuzhi akwe 




Nabukomba (f ) 

Muzukuzhi akwe 




Muzekwe (f.) 

Muzukuzhi akwe 




Shanyimba (m.) 


By name 



Shikadilele (f.) 


By name 



Shamwaze (f.) 





Kayobe (m.) 





Kayobe (f.) 





Shamatanga (m.) 





Namashikwe (f.) 





Mukashombo (f.) 





Nadimba (f.) 





Sebwa (m.) 





Nambwasu (f.) 





Kambwe (m.) 





Namatama (f.) 





Kachinka (m.) 





Namangoma (m.) 





Chilabwe (f.) 





Mongona (f.) 





Nachiloba (f.) 


By name 




Eni (f.) 


By name 



Shimunza (m.) 


By narhe 



Sebwa's son 


By name 



Sebwa's daughter 


By name 



Nambwasu's daiighter 


By name 



Nambwasu's son 


By name 



Kambwe's son 


By name 



Kambwe's daughter 


By name 



Namatama's son 


By name 



Namatama's daughter 


By name 



Kachinka's son 





Kachinka's daughter 





Namangoma's son 


By name 





By name 



Chilabwe's daughter 


By name 



Chilabwe's son 


By name 

* The numbers following refer to Genealogical Table No. 4. 




Table No. 7 — continued. 


No. in 
Table 3. 













25 ■ 

















No. 27 in relation to No. 























43. Mongolia's son 

Mongona's daughter 
Nachiloba's son 
Nachiloba's daughter 
Eni's daughter 
Eni's son 
His own son 
His own daughter 
Shimunza's daughter 
Shimunza's son 
Namangoma's son's 





Nachiloba's son's 

Nachiloba's daugh- 
ter's son 

Muzhoka (m.) 

Kachinka (m.) 

3. Leshodi (m.) 

3a. Leshodi's wife Na- 

4. Nankua (f.) 

5. Shakezwa (m.) 

6. Namashikwe (m.) 

7. Naomi (f.) 

8. Mbambo (f.) 

9. Kachinka (m.) 

10. Mukamuluti (f.) 

11. Shimansi (m.) 

12. Katende (m.) 

13. Mushaka (m.) 

14. Mukamasole (f.) 
[15-18 = 25-28 given 

17. Self 

Mbambo's son 
Mbambo's daughter 
Kachinka's son 
Kachinka's daughter 
Shimansi's daughter 
Shimansi's son 
26. Mukamasole's son 
[27-34 = 45-52 given 














Muzukuzhi akwe 
Muzukuzhi akwe 
Muzukuzhi akwe 

Muzukuzhi akwe 

Muzukuzhi akwe 

Muzukuzhi akwe 

















and addresses him 
or her as 

By name 

By name 

By name 

By name 

By name 

By name 





Mulongwangu (if 

Mwinangu (if fe- 



Nkaka, Nkambo 


Nkaka, Nkambo 

Nkaka, Nkambo 












By name 
By name 
By name 
By name 


* The numbers following refer to Genealogical Table No. 5. 



PT. Ill 

Table No. 7 — continued 


No. in 

Table 3. 

No. 27 in relation to No. 


and addresses him 
or Vier as 



Mbambo's son's 


By name 



Mbambo's daughter's 


By name 



Kachinka's son's son 


By name 



Kachinka's daugh- 
ter's daughter 


By name 



Shimansi's daughter's 





Shimansi's son's 





daughter's son 





daughter's daughter 



Connections by Affinity 

So much, then, for a person's consanguine relations, 
remembering all the time that the Ba-ila reckon consanguinity 
through the father only. My mother and her family are 
not of my mukwashi ; they are, properly speaking, affines 
not consanguinei. In a looser sense, as we have seen, the 
Ba-ila reckon as basazhinokwabo (" their relations ") all those 
to whom they are affined through the mother ; in a yet 
looser sense they also reckon as relations all who are con- 
nected with them by affinity, though they do not apply to 
them the name basazhinokwabo. We have now to deal 
with this latter class, and must be careful to draw the 
distinction between those who are taboo to each other and 
those who are not. Between those who are tonda {" taboo ") 
there exists a close connection shown mainly in the pro- 
hibition of all sexual intercourse. 

Many of these affines are given the same names as the 
consanguinei. Thus, the spouses of all who stand to me 
as nkakangu I call nkakangu by courtesy, whether I be male 
or female. My grandfather's wives are my grandmothers, 
and if I am a male my wife's grandmothers in the extended 


sense are also mine ; if I am a female my husband's are 
mine. So that the term includes all a man's grandparents, 
his wife's grandparents, and also their grandparents' brothers 
and sisters. Between me and the collateral grandmothers 
on my own side there is no taboo ; I address each of 
them as mwinangu (" my wife "), and may treat her 
as such. Similarly there is the same liberty between 
me and my " grandchildren," whom I call benangu {" my 
wives "). This is only an extension of the principle that 
my collateral grandfather's property is mine potentially ; 
I may enter my grandfather's brother's village, spear his 
oxen or rob his fields with impunity. This liberty may not 
be taken with my wife's collateral grandfathers ; she may 
practise it with hers and I with mine ; but not I with hers 
nor she with mine. 

The wives of all who stand as tata {" my father ") I call 
by courtesy bama ("my mother"). I extend the same 
courtesy to the sisters of these wives, and their brothers I 
call batata {" my fathers "). These women are all tonda 
to me ; I have no rights or privileges over their persons. 
Similarly the husbands of all who stand as bama, and their 
brothers I call batata {" my fathers ") ; their sisters are 
bama. The fathers and mothers of these husbands and 
wives I call baiikakangu. 

I being a male call my wife mwinangu, and she calls me 
mulumi angu. A polygamist's principal wife is nabukando, 
any other is nabwaniche. A polygamist's wife calls her 
fellow mukazhima (" my co-wife "). The prefix muka 
{" the one of ") joined to proper names indicates " his 
wife " ; thus : Mukamasole means Masole's wife, " Mrs. 

The wives of all the men who stand as mukwesu to me 
are bazhilebesu, a term which may be loosely translated as 
" sisters-in-law." The husbands of those women who stand 
in the same relation to me are balamu bangu, which may 
be translated " brothers-in-law." 

But those Ila terms are wider than the English ones. 
Among bazhilebesu I include the following : 

My wife's elder and younger sisters. 

My husband's elder and younger brothers. 


My brother's wife, and the wives of all who stand to me 
in that relation. 

My brother's wife's sisters. 

These are strictly tonda to me ; any intercourse is 
reckoned as incest. 

Among bazhilebesu are also reckoned the husbands and 
wives of cousins. Thus in the Genealogical Table No. 4 
the husband of Chilabwe (No. 23) is muzhilakwe Nachiloba 
(No. 25) and calls her mzmnangu {" my wife "). The wife 
of Namangoma (No. 22) is muzhilakwe vShimashikwe (No. 27) 
and calls him mulumi (" husband "). Between these there 
is no taboo ; intercourse, if found out, is liable to be punished, 
but it is not reckoned as incest. 

Among halamu bangu are included the following : 

Sister's husband, and husbands of all who stand to me 
in that relation. 

Sister's husband's brother and sister. 

Wife's brothers. 

Husband's sisters. 
These are tonda to each other ; intercourse with some 
exception is reckoned as incest. 

The wife and husband of each person who stands in the 
relation of mwanangu and mwiwangu is mukwangu (" my 
son- (or daughter-) in-law "). But that is an inadequate 
rendering of the word ; mukwe is properly a son-in-law or 
daughter-in-law ; but when I say mukwangu, I mean much 
more than the English term suggests. In that category 
are included the brother and sister of my " children's " 
husbands and wives ; also the parents and brothers and 
sisters of my brother's wife. My sister's husband's brothers 
and sisters are halamu hangu ; but his fathers and mothers 
are hakwe bangu (plural of mukwangu). All who stand as 
bakwe bangu I address as ta and ma, male and female re- 
spectively. My wife's father and mother and their brothers 
are also bakwe bangu, and I address them as ta and ma. 
If I am a female, my husband's father and mother and his 
father's brother are all hakwe hangu, and I address them in 
the same way. My husband's mother if I am a female, 
and my wife's mother if I am a male, is hamakwangu. 

There is a very special state of taboo between a person 


and his makwe, in which term are included the family of his 
wife^, if a female, the family of her husband. So much 
so that there is a special term, hukwe, which indicates the 
respect, honour, reverence that is due to them. To say 
of a person uina hukwe (" he has no respect for his wife's 
relations ") is to describe him as altogether a worthless fellow. 
For the term is applied in a wider sense than just indicated ; 
a man without reverence for any authority is said to be 
without hukwe. 

For a man to have intercourse with any of those he 
names hakwe bakwe is a very heinous form of incest, meriting 
death. Even if the offender be not slain, the elders will 
take away his wife and send him out of the community as 
utterly unfit to be a member of it. Even males standing 
in that relation to each other may not occupy one bed 
together ; if they are travelling and circumstances compel 
them to sleep near each other, they will be careful to place 
a boy between them, so that the taboo may not be broken. 
There is also a strict taboo in regard to eating. I may not 
eat at my father-in-law's place unless and until he removes 
the taboo by giving me a hoe. Nor may I enter his house 
until the taboo is removed in a similar way. For some 
reason there is a special taboo attached to the eating of 
pumpkin ; I may by no means touch it when visiting my 
parents-in-law unless they please to hand me some, and 
thus remove the taboo. They may not address me by name, 
and this taboo is only partially removed by my making an 
offering. In this case the offering is the child which I 
beget ; when once I have presented them with a grandchild 
they may so far relax as to address me as " the father of 
So-and-so," naming the child. It is taboo for these relations- 
in-law to pass close to one another or to sit side by side. 
It is also tonda to receive anything directly from the hands 
of any of them ; if one is desirous of giving the other any- 
thing he must lay it on the ground for the other to pick it 
up. This apphes to eating also ; it would be wrong for 
my father-in-law to break off a piece of bread and hand it 
to me ; if we are eating together, he will take his piece first, 
and place the dish on the ground for me to help myself ; 
nor may he take any more out of the dish once I have put 


my hand into it. When ^^'ou are travelling together, it is 
wrong to expect your wife's relation to carry any portion 
of the impedimenta ; only if he sees you overburdened 
and likely to faint under the load may he relieve you. 
We have seen a young man, active and robust, walking 
along free, while an older, somewhat decrepit man stumbled 
along in the rear bearing a big load of blankets, pots, and 
other things. When we asked him why he did not give 
the load to the young man, it was quite a sufficient answer 
to say, " He's my wife's brother." 

Lastty, we may note that the husband of each of those 
who stand to me as hazukuzhi bangu I address just as I do 
my own grandson, i.e. mulongwangu {" my friend ") ; the 
wife of my " grandson " is mwi7%angu (" my wife "). There 
is no taboo between us ; I have every right over her 


* ** 


I. The Sanctions 

We cannot imagine any people living, as the Ba-ila live, in 
communities without some kind of control. If society is 
to hang together at all, there must be some understood 
principles of conduct, certain restraints, objective or sub- 
jective, even though they are not always observed. 

Independent, even fiercely independent, as they are, the 
Ba-ila are far from being anarchists in principle or practice. 
Their behaviour is not left to unchartered freedom, but is 
governed by an extensive system of rules and regulations. 
That they rebel against these restrictions is only to say 
that they are human ; but the principles of conduct are 
there and are well known. Immoral they may be ; they 
are not unmoral. 

We are here concerned in asking : What are their 
sanctions of morality ? What is the nature of the social 
control ? 

If their language be examined there will be found a large 
vocabulary of words expressing approval and disapproval. 
One pair of words is hota and hia, the former indicating 
what is pleasant, and the latter what is unpleasant, primarily 
to the sight. Chahota means it is good to look at, fine, 
beautiful ; then, it is good to the taste, nice ; and lastly, 
it is good morally. Chahia means the exact contrary, it is 
ugly, distasteful, bad. A second antithesis is that between 
straight and crooked. Lulama is straight, right ; sendama, 
minama, pitana indicate crookedness in various forms. A 



third antithesis is that of heavy and Hght. Lema means, 
firstly, heavy, then weighty, honourable ; uha is light, 
worthless. To lemeka a person is to hold him in esteem 
and honour ; to ubya him is to slight, treat him with 
disrespect. From these root- words are formed series of 
derivatives, substantival, adjectival, and verbal. 

For their simplest ethical expressions the Ba-ila go, then, 
to the concrete. It would serve no useful purpose to give 
further examples ; what concerns us rather is to ask. What 
in their minds is right and what is wrong ? What is the 
standard of judgement ? In a word, we may say : the norm 
is custom, what is done should be done. Bacon might have 
been thinking of the Ba-ila when he said that custom is the 
magistrate. A Mwila acts as part of a whole ; his well-being 
depends upon his conforming to the general practice ; the 
good is that which has the approval of the community, the 
bad is the anti-social. A Mwila child is born into a particular 
atmosphere ; his first teacher is his mother, and from her, 
and later from the guardian and other teachers, he learns 
what he may eat and what he may not eat, say and not 
say, do and not do. As he grows he shapes his conduct 
according to the thinking and doing of his fellows, and in 
turn leads the steps of the younger generation along the 
same path he has followed. He grows up to fear and 
resent change ; from the cradle to the grave he is ruled 
by custom. 

But this, after all, does not lead us far. Upon what 
sanctions do these customs rest ? What gives them 
validity ? 

It is difficult, impossible, to say of a particular custom 
that it rests upon any one of the sanctions we now enumerate, 
for the distinction between these classes is not always 
definite. But we shall not be far wrong if we say that there 
are three kinds of sanction : traditional, religious, and 

Customs, by their nature, are handed down from genera- 
tion to generation : they are invested with the sanction of 
the hoary past. What is ancient is aweful, to be reverenced. 
They may originally have rested upon sanctions of a religious 
or magical character, but to-day these have been forgotten, 


and the only reason why the customs are still followed is : 
" We do it because our fathers did it." 

Of many customs it is commonly said that they were 
estabhshed by Leza, and any breach of them may be 
punished by Him. Various prohibitions are called : Shifundo 
shaka Leza. The idea conveyed by the word chifundo is a 
line drawn on the ground over which people are not allowed 
to step. The first occasion on which we heard the word 
used was after we had doctored for some weeks a man who 
had been very seriously mauled by a leopard : we suggested 
to the patient's father that we should like to have the 
leopard's skin as a memento of his son's bravery. The old 
man, with every sign of reluctance, dechned ; to give away 
that skin would be wrong, because by the Chifundo chaka 
Leza the skin of any animal that has attacked a member 
of one's family is to be kept as a sacred heirloom. 

Customs rest not only upon the will of the Supreme 
Being, but upon the wishes of the lesser deities — the mizUmo, 
departed ancestors. 

And it is important to observe that changes in traditional 
customs, and the estabhshment of new customs, are due 
largely and probably mostly, not to the ruling chiefs, but 
to those who are the mouthpieces of the gods — the prophets. 
They are actually the law-givers, and of course do not base 
their demands upon anything they are in themselves, but 
upon the authority of the god. We do not lose sight of the 
fact that a prophet may be prompted by a chief, who uses 
his alleged supernatural gift when his own power fails. It 
must not be thought, however, that every word uttered by 
a prophet proves acceptable ; his decrees may hold for a 
time and then be neglected, or they may never be accepted 
at all : it depends largely upon the status of the seer, and 
attendant circumstances. One prophet, for example, gave 
it as a message from Leza that the use of the Kamwaya 
bush in scattering inconvenient clouds was to cease. But 
immediately afterwards two men on their way home were 
overtaken by a storm, and one of them plucked some 
Kamwaya twigs and frantically waved them above his head, 
to turn the clouds and thus enable them to get home with 
dry skins. His companion remonstrated, reminding him of 


the prophet's message, but the impious fellow continued, 
until presently there was a flash of lightning and he fell 
dead. This was accepted by all as a confirmation of the 
prophet's orders and the news quickly travelled through 
the country. It will be interesting to know whether in a 
few years the use of the Kamwaya has ceased. We are 
persuaded that many a custom, and many a change of 
custom, might, if we had the means of doing so, be traced 
to the inspiration of prophets. 

The third kind of sanction we mentioned was the magical ; 
and that is probably the oldest and strongest. The essential 
point here is that things are regarded as inherently harmful ; 
hence they are tonda, i.e. taboo. We shall have occasion 
presently to enlarge upon this. 

2. Chisapi, Buditazhi, Tonda 

Almost all offences against the customary law fall in 
one of the three categories which we may conveniently, if 
not quite accurately, characterise by the words : Chisapi, 
Buditazhi, Tonda. A clear idea of the meaning of these 
terms is essential to understanding the life of the Ba-ila. 

Chisapi is indecorum. Under this heading are grouped 
numerous sayings and actions which are regarded as con- 
trary to etiquette. It is by no means regarded as such a 
heinous fault as the two other things we describe below. 
A rude fellow {shikisapi) may be beaten, or rebuked or I 
reviled, but he is not sued in a court, nor is any automatic 
retribution regarded as falhng upon him. 

Buditazhi is a word covering a host of offences which 
call out the active resentment of the offended. The offender 
is not left to the vengeance of hidden powers, but is punished 
by his fellows. Kuditaya, the verb from which the sub- 
stantive is formed, means to enslave oneself ; to say of a 
person wamuditaya means that by doing something wrong 
he places himself in the power of the person wronged, and 
to escape must redeem himself, or be redeemed by others, 
by payment of a ransom. Under this heading come various 
offences against the person, and since in the minds of the 
Ba-ila there is a very close connection, amounting almost 


to identity, between a person and his possessions, an injury 
done to his property comes also under this head. 

Kutonda { = kuila, kuzila, kuzhila) is a verb meaning to 
be taboo ; it is apparently a synonym of the Polynesian 
word. The substantive is mutondo ; thus we speak of 
mitondo ya hana, taboos affecting children. A thing, or 
person, or action or word is tonda, upon which an inter- 
diction is placed ; the thing or word is debarred to use, 
the person is under a ban. Chiiitii chilatonda, they say 
(" the thing is taboo ") ; mimtii ulatonda (" the person is 
taboo "). Another word used in this connection is malweza. 
Kulweza, the verb, means to strike with amazement ; it is 
the proper word to use [ndalwezwa) when you first see a 
thing that astonishes you. Hence the special meaning : 
to be struck with horror and amazement at seeing some- 
thing contrary to the taboo laws — something atrocious. 
A malweza is an atrocity, a horrible thing : an infraction 
of a taboo. Thus incest is malweza. 

The difference between Buditazhi and Tonda is this : in 
committing the former a man does something whereby he 
puts himself in the power of a fellow-man, who sees to his 
punishment ; in breaking a taboo he puts himself in the 
power of the mysterious forces which everywhere prevail 
and which at once react against him. There is the idea of 
danger underlying both words ; but in the former the 
danger is from persons ; in the latter it is from forces. 
There is something about the tonda person that jeopardises 
the well-being of others ; some baneful influence inherent 
in, or set in energy by, the tonda things, actions and words 
making them a source of peril not only to the person hand- 
ling, using, saying them but also, it may be, to his fellows. 
In this case they may excite the active resentment of those 
who are affected and the offender may be punished by them ; 
but, generally speaking, the taboo-breaker is left to the 
retribution of his own misdeed. That is to say, these deeds 
or sayings have a malefic essence in themselves, and by a 
kind of automatic action recoil upon the offender ; or, to 
put it more accurately, they release the spring which sets 
the hidden mechanism of nature in action against the 


It is not easy for one trained in Christian morality to 
appreciate the position occupied by the taboo in the hfe of 
the Ba-ila. The things summed up in the word tonda include 
not only prohibitions due to a vague instinctive repulsion 
from deeds which the highest ethical consciousness recognises 
as wrong, but also others which to advanced thought have 
no moral significance. To our minds there is a world of 
difference between theft and, say, eating a quail ; but it is 
a sign of the weakness of their ethical discrimination that 
a breach of what we should call the " ceremonial law " is 
rated a greater offence than a breach of the " moral law." 
We have constantly had proof of their inability to recognise 
the distinctive nature of morality, i.e. as recognised by 
ourselves. We remember one instance particularly, because 
the man concerned was, we had imagined, considerably in 
advance of his fellow Ba-ila in intelligence. He came to 
complain about a certain woman, who had aborted some 
time previously, entering his house and stealing some of 
his things. Here were two crimes, for, apart from theft, 
the woman was in a state of uncleanness ; she was tonda, and 
for her to have entered his house was a serious menace to 
him and his family. The thievery might have been over- 
looked, but the tonda offence could only be expiated by the 
payment of a heavy fine. We were amazed, and yet — Why ? 
From his point of view he was unquestionably right. And 
in all these matters we have to think ourselves back into 
their position. 

We have already had occasion to enumerate many of 
these taboos, and many more will be named in subsequent 
chapters. Here it will be convenient to attempt a rough 
classification of them. 

By physiological taboos we mean those associated with 
certain vital functions. They regulate the relations be- 
tween the sexes and have a special implication in regard 
to women during menstruation, pregnancy, nursing, and 

Occupational taboos are such as apply to men while 
pursuing various occupations which bring them into intimate 
contact with death and other mysteries, and unless they are 
wary in observing the rules they will fail, and worse than 


fail. Warriors, iron-smelters, merchants, hunters are thus 

Special taboos, like the preceding, are placed upon 
people during certain periods of their life : e.g. when a man 
is being doctored he must refrain from certain foods and 
certain acts lest the medicine should not be effectual. 

These last are partly of another class, — that large and 
interesting class associated with diet. 

Personal taboos are such as those associated with names, 
and those that are put upon an individual for a period, or 
for life, by a diviner or by himself. One often finds men 
who refuse to eat certain foods, and there is no apparent 
reason for their abstention : the things tabooed are not 
their totems, nor are they taboo to the generality of people. 
The reason is that earlier in life they ate them and were 
ill after eating ; and the vomiting and indigestion or what 
not is taken as a sign that the food is taboo to them. For 
example, our old friend, Mungalo, was a total abstainer 
from all kinds of beer : the reason being that once when a 
3'^oung man he had a " sore head " after a feast, and the 
diviner on being consulted declared that evidently beer 
was taboo to him : not to be drunk without danger. Often 
the oracle of the diviner is not considered necessary : should 
a man be ill after taking honey or milk or ground-nuts, or 
any particular food, and the same thing should happen a 
second and third time, he draws his own conclusions, and, 
no matter how nice it may be, from that time he does not 
touch it : it is taboo. 

3. Judicial Processes 

In studying now the deterrents against infringing such 
standards as we have named and the processes for punishing 
the wrong-doer, we are thinking only of misdeeds that are 
punishable by human agency. 

When one man is wronged by another he may attempt 
on his own initiative to enforce his rights, with, however, 
the consciousness of the powerful combination of his chief 
and his clan in the background. No police force or public 
prosecutor being at hand, he is thrown on his own resources ; 


should he be distrustful of these he is allowed to shisha, i.e. 
to invoke the aid of some more combative friend, whose 
services he recognises by giving him a portion of the damages 
he obtains. Sometimes when these are small, as when only 
one calf is obtained, the friend claims the beast as his reward 
for the trouble taken, and the aggrieved person gets nothing. 

The principal offences for which a man seeks to redress 
himself are thefts and assaults ; minor ones comprise damage 
to property, slander, and occasionally trespass, though as 
the land and water belong to the community this is more 
often a matter for the chief. Retaliation is practised rather 
against the property of the offender than his person. If 
a man breaks another's head, the assaulted, unless a fight 
in hot blood follows, will attempt to seize a person or a 
beast belonging to his assailant. It is singular how often 
some sense of conscience manifests itself in these cases, and 
the assailant in sullen acquiescence allows the thing seized 
to be taken away, after the whole night perhaps has been 
spent in vociferating against each other. Intimidation is 
often practised. When a man induces two or three stalwart 
friends to accompany him and assist in prosecuting his 
claim, the other party replies by summoning his clansmen 
to his aid, and sometimes the people of two whole districts 
become involved in a very trifling matter. 

Matters in regard to which a man acts on his own initiative 
are invariably of a trivial nature. A man's life is so bound 
up with the interests of^his clan, and his responsibilities to 
the clan so varied, that it is not surprising that when he 
meets with trouble or wrong in any affairs of importance 
he should immediately look to the clan to assist him in 
gaining redress. In any case where a clan takes up a dispute, 
responsibility is collective and therefore vicarious ; as in an 
old Border raid or Corsican vendetta, any member of the 
clan is liable to be punished. The dispute is against a rival 
clan, not against an individual ; the initiative is taken by 
common consent, not by an individual, and as the result of 
due deliberation by the elders. Such claims as the follow- 
ing : claims for chiko cattle, for ill-treatment of a clans- 
woman by her husband, claims arising out of raids and 
feuds, cases of redemption from slavery, theft on a large 


scale, as of cattle or ivory — all these are quickly adopted 
by a clan. 

When these disputes are not settled by councils of the 
elders and mutual arrangements, they drag on, engendering 
bad feeling for a very long time ; and where distance 
separates the disputing parties, forays and reprisals take 
place, until finally some arbitrator acceptable to both parties 
is selected to whom the dispute is referred. 

The last method amongst the Ba-ila themselves, as apart 
from their European magistrate, by which wrongs are 
redressed and order maintained, is by direct intervention 
of the chief or his headmen. He judges the matter in fault, 
and as a rule does so justly, according to custom and pre- 
cedent, with the assistance of the elders sitting as assessors. 
Such an assembly is termed a luheta. When a grave offence 
has been committed, or should a man prove stubborn or 
recalcitrant, complaint is laid to the chief, who summons 
the offender before him. The case is exhaustively detailed 
b}' both parties, the assessors quote precedents and give 
their opinions and suggestions, and the chief gives his 
decision : from this there is no appeal. The degree of 
obedience which his decision exacts depends entirely upon 
the force of character of the chief himself and the respect 
and fear in which he is held. In a well-controlled trial the 
loser has no misgivings about his future course of action. 
The chief has spoken, and it is not his to argue further but 
to obey. Under a man of vacillating character the offender 
temporises or defies as openly as he dares, and the matter 
rankles in the minds of all concerned. 

We insert here an interesting pen picture of a typical 
Ila court taken as it was in the rough on the spot : "I 
was at Shamalomo's to-day and found all the chiefs there 
about to have a luheta. I asked if I might enter and they 
readily agreed. On entering I could see nothing, it was 
pitch dark ; they gave me a stool and made room for me. 
Gradually I began to see that the hut was crowded with 
men. On the raised seat near the door sat the chiefs, 
Mungalo, Mungaila, Chidyaboloto, Nalubwe, and one or 
two more. The rest of the men sat about mostly smoking 
their long pipes. Many were invisible as they sat in the 


chimpetu behind the reed screen. Mungalo called upon 
Shingwe to open the case. Shingwe thereupon proceeded to 
state that a case had been brought to him against one of his 
men, and as he felt that he could not decide it satisfactorily 
he had asked his brother chiefs to meet and deliberate upon 
it. It was the usual sordid kind of adultery case but mixed 
up with other matters. The man who brought the complaint 
owed the accused some cattle, a question of inheritance also 
arose, — altogether an involved affair. Shingwe stated the 
case slowly, deliberately, Mungalo grunting E-weh ! every 
few words. When he had finished, Shamalomo gave his 
version of the affair. The accused, a young man who sat 
with his face covered with his hands, was asked what he had 
to say. He replied, ' What can I say ? ' and was silent. 
The chiefs then proceeded to argue the matter among them- 
selves, and finally announced their decision that the young 
man should pay a cow. He then spoke, just a word or two, 
but the effect on the chiefs was electrical. He declared he 
didn't care what they said, they were shami (' good-for- 
nothing chiefs'). I thought Mungaila would go out of his 
senses. Hitherto everything had been quiet and orderly, 
now it was Bedlam let loose. Mungaila screamed and 
gesticulated ; all the rest of the chiefs did the same. The 
cry was, ' He curses us.' After quiet was restored you could 
still hear Mungaila ej aculating Weh ! very disgustedly. 
Finally they declared the young man should be banished. 
' We will drive him away,' they said to me. Another case 
was then brought by a chief agcinst a man for adultery. 
This was chiefly notable for the decision arrived at. It is 
the custom for the relatives of a man to pay his fine and 
get him off, but this becomes a burden when a ne'er-do-well 
profligate son is always in trouble. To-day the chiefs 
decided that the man himself should pay, they would not 
have father and relatives impoverished any longer. The 
man was sentenced to pay £5, and if he wouldn't or 
couldn't, they would take him by force to the magistrate 
and ask him to sentence him to work for the money. The 
meeting then broke up. 

" I was favourably impressed by the order of the meeting. 
The speaker as a rule was left to say his say, but sometimes 


2 A 


he aroused feeling, and then tongues were untied. In the 
midst of the debate there were several interruptions. A 
lad came crying to the door and said : " They tied me up 
there at Busangu." He was told to go away, and not to 
interrupt the luheta. Later some women were making a 
noise outside, and a man was sent to tell them to keep 
quiet. Other interruptions were caused by men calling for 
embers to light their pipes with. They kept sucking at their 
pipes most of the time. When speaking, Shamalomo would 
say a few words and then give a loud suck at his pipe." 

Occasionally a chief is found whose decision is swayed 
by favour or affection, and whose partiality to his own 
kinsmen is pronounced. Possibly an outsider in a case of 
adultery he will mulct in heavy, against his kinsman he will 
only grant small, damages. His decisions cause much dis- 
satisfaction, and his people commence to fall off from him 
to other and stronger men. Unfortunately our administra- 
tion inevitably weakens the power of the chief even when 
every effort is made to support him. Protection comes not 
as the result of herding together for mutual support under a 
strong head, but from the stable European administration. 
Old deterrents lose their power, other chiefs are willing to 
receive the rebellious, and it requires a strong man to 
refuse to let things slide and insist on his control being 
a reality. A chief may decide a case against an habitual 
adulterer. He promptly disappears for two or three years 
to the mines, and on his return finds conditions changed, 
deaths or removals have occurred, and the matter has all 
to be reopened. 

In cases tried before the local heads every endeavour is 
made to bring home guilt to the accused, nor is he allowed 
to take advantage of ingenious loopholes through which to 
escape his deserts. Nothing amongst the myriad changes 
and alterations we have brought into their lives perplexes 
them more than the verdict of " not proven " ; when the 
guilt of the accused is known to all, but incapable of proof 
by the laws of evidence, they sneer at our justice as a thing 
of word only. 

Reversing the dictum that a man is innocent until he is 
proved guilty, the chief and the assessors who constitute 


the Court have one end in view, to convict the offender, not 
necessarily the accused : all means save physical torture 
are employed to press a witness ; he is invited to assert his 
innocence or ignorance by oath, it being held that the act 
of perjury will bring its own punishment. 

There are many forms of oaths. Oaths proper are 
termed miya ; and to take an oath is kupinga, or kuchinga, 
miya. They are taken on sacred things, namely, itwe 
("the ash"); ivhu ("soil"); chumhwe ("the grave"); 
and Leza (" God "). The ash is primarily that of funeral 
fires, and the soil, the white clay with which mourners 
smear their bodies. The expressions are : Nditwe (" By 
the ash ") ; Ndivhu dilamha badila (" By the soil the 
mourners smear on themselves ") ; Ngu chumhwe (" By 
the grave ") ; Ngu Leza (" By God "). Kuomhwezha is to 
make a solemn asseveration by calling down a curse upon 
oneself or some other person ; and it is implied that if the 
truth be not spoken the evil named will happen. The 
perjurer is guilty of huditazhi against the person named. 
Oaths, then, are uncanny things : they are not mere words ; 
sometimes, indeed, they pass by the speaker, and the person 
sworn by, and strike somebody else, causing him sickness, 
or ill-fortune, or death. So that if you hear a person swearing 
and have reason to believe that he is perjuring himself, the 
safe thing is to spit on the ground, Thu ! so that it may 
pass you by. To omhwezha for the purpose of denying a 
charge is called kudikazMzha. Some of these oaths are as 
follows : Leza we nina ukwiba, pe, akudi ndeba utabuchesha 
{" Before God, I did not steal ; if I stole, may you {i.e. the 
accuser) never see the dawn ") ; Utadiboni kudihidila (" May 
you not see the sunset " ) ; Chidyo nchi wadya chikuite u 
manango (" May the food you eat come back through the 
nostrils ") ; Ngu nini wezu afwe sunu (" By so-and-so, may 
he die to-day") ; Banoko bakufwa {" May your mother die") ; 
Ndamutuka titata (" I curse my father") ; Uandauke sunu 
{" May you spht in pieces ") ; Upasauke {" May you burst 
asunder "). 

Where feeling runs high over a matter, an ordinary oath 
will not suffice ; the demand is for a speedy conviction or 
acquittal, and the accused either volunteers for, or his 


accusers insist on, the trial by ordeal. It is to be noted that 
the oath and ordeal do not differ in principle : each is an 
appeal to the hidden forces to show the guilt or innocence 
of the person — the innocent escapes the penalty, while the 
guilty succumbs ; but while the action of an oath may be 
delayed, that of the ordeal is immediate and patent to all. 

The ordeal is of two forms — the hot-water test and the 
poison test. The former the accused undergoes himself, the 
latter is frequently administered by proxy. In the former 
the accused has the right of drawing the water, cutting the 
wood, and lighting the fire. The friends of the accused and 
accuser take their places on opposite sides of the fire, upon 
which is placed a potful of water. When it boils they 
address the accused — the technical term is sansila — " If it 
be that you are guilty, then you will be burnt and leave your 
nails in the pot ; if you are innocent, then why should you 
be hurt ? " He plunges his hand into the boiling water 
and sometimes has to pick up a stone that has been put 
into the pot. If on examination there is no sign of blistering 
he is acquitted ; but should there be any, he is pronounced 
guilty. We have never witnessed this performance, but have 
seen men who have just come from the ordeal — sometimes 
with arms blistered to the elbow, once or twice with no 
evidence of scalding. We are told that men manage some- 
times to square the diviner presiding over the ceremony, 
who gives them " medicine " to smear on the arm to obviate 
any ill effect. Natives have great faith in this ordeal ; it 
is common to hear one, even children, say when accused, 
" I will put my hand in the pot." 

The other test employs the mwazhi, a decoction made 
from a shrub of that name. Suppose that the diviner, on 
being consulted in the way described on p. 268, names two 
men as probable agents in the death of a person, they will 
administer the poison in the first instance to a dog or cock. 
A dog is tied up and kept perhaps all day and night without 
food. Then in the presence of the clansmen of both sides, 
the decoction is put before the dog, and one man charges 
it, naming one of the accused, and saying, " You, O dog ! 
we give you this mwazhi to drink. If it be that our relation 
died simply of disease, why should you die ? Let it go 


west ! KasJiia miimho, i.e. ' It is no concern of yours.' 
If he was bewitched, why, then, to-day you must not see the 
sunset ! " Then a man from the other party recharges 
{sansiilula) the dog, saying, " No, O dog, this is the affair : 
if so-and-so (naming the deceased) was killed by witchcraft 
out of envy, to-day you must not see the sunset. But 
if it be that Leza killed him, as all men die, then you, 
why should you perish ? " Then if the suspected man 
be guilty of warlockry, the dog dies. They cut off its 
tail and deposit it with the chief. Then the two parties 
divide and each goes back to a diviner to get his oracle. 
Then they put a test to a cock : they omhwezha it, and 
charge it and recharge it, as they did the dog. If the man 
be innocent the cock vomits the mwazhi and lives ; if he be 
guilty it dies, and they take its wings to the chief. So 
homhona bukungu mulozhi {" they have detected the war- 
lock"), and seizing, him they cry, "Let him die! Let 
him die ! " If he still protests his innocence they invite 
him to take the mwazhi himself. Sometimes he agrees to 
do so, and either dies — a sure sign of his guilt — or lives, and 
is pronounced innocent notwithstanding the evidence of 
the dog and cock. Should he refuse, the}/ confront him 
with the dog's tail and cock's wings, and demand how he 
can deny his guilt in the face of such proofs. They then 
tie these proofs round his neck and lead him off to execution. 

Should the tests fail to show a man's guilt, his accusers 
cannot close the matter by an apology. They are guilty of 
huditazhi, and will have to redeem themselves by a heavy 
ransom to the accused and his clansmen. 

Occasionally the medicine is drunk not by a substitute, 
but by the accused himself, and on his own demand. He 
is " charged " similarly to the dog : " O So-and-so, if you 
are innocent, why should you die ? If you are no warlock 
do not die ; if you are, die." Sometimes, perhaps most 
times, an appeal is delivered directly to the mwazhi to 
reveal the truth. 

Where a case of an ordinary nature is tried by ordinary 
methods, it is decided by the evidence produced. Hearsay 
evidence is admitted, and credence is occasionally extended 
to the one who indulges in the greatest wealth of embroidery 



and detail. Some chiefs show remarkable shrewdness in 
dealing with these matters, and their decisions are un- 
questioned ; others show themselves unable to grasp the 
kernel of the matter at issue. It is fair to say that the 
personal equation bulks more largely in a native court than 
amongst ourselves. 

Supposing the case satisfactorily argued and the guilt 
of the accused clear, the question arises as to the punish- 
ment to be awarded. The warning of similarly evil-disposed 
persons, the well-being of the community, and the satis- 
faction of the wish for revenge in a private person are the 
objects aimed at. 

The choice of punishments lies between outlawry, 
mutilation, death, confiscation of goods or property, and 

Outlawry is resorted to where the man has rendered 
himself insufferable, but is resorted to with reluctance. It 
means the deprivation to the community of a pair of hands 
and feet and the strengthening to that extent of a rival 
community. Therefore the departure of a hale evildoer is 
viewed with greater distaste than that of a respectable 
cripple. For these reasons no mwelenze (" vagabond ") has 
any difficulty in securing a place of abode at the village he 
fancies. The Ila proverb, " Chilo chihi chishinka musena" 
{" Any old stick will fill up a hole in the fence "), illustrates 
their attitude of mind towards this question. 

Mutilation was the punishment allotted to persistent 
adulterers and thieves, and to committers of arson. Either 
one or both of the following members were amputated : 
the ear, foot, finger, or toe. Mutilation of the privates was 
not practised, though burning with hot coals was. One 
extraordinary case of mutilation known to us is of a minor 
chief who when elected abused his position by selling into 
slavery the children born of his predecessor ; the indignant 
mother aroused neighbouring chiefs to take action against 
him, and they punished him by cutting off both hands. 

Death, the supreme punishment, was mostly reserved 
for those found guilty of witchcraft, the supreme crime. 
The criminal was taken away into the veld, where a great 
pile of dry wood had been gathered. He was made to lie 


upon it, and other wood piled around him and Hghted. 
We are informed that the men would stand round and 
watch until the victim " burst " (tuluka), and then cry 
aloud, Wo I Wo I and run off as hard as they could without 
looking round. 

In regard to confiscation, we may advert to the custom 
known as kusala. Where a person by wrongdoing had cut 
himself off from the protection of his fellows, he was ren- 
dered defenceless ; and the persons aggrieved sala'6. him, 
i.e. seized what they wished of his property, however dis- 
proportionate it might be to the offence. His property, his 
person, his wife, his children were, to an extent only slightly 
affected by the heinousness of his fault, at the mercy of the 
others, who took what they fancied. 

In contrast with this irregular method of seizing damages 
are the fines inflicted and damages awarded by decision of 
the elders. These vary from the payment of twenty head 
of cattle as weregild [Iwembe) for homicide, to the ox-calf 
paid in compensation of minor cases of huditazhi. Some 
distinction is drawn between the amount of damages 
awarded to a chief and a commoner ; e.g. a chief may receive 
three head as damages for adultery with his wife, a com- 
moner only one, but the distinction between other grades 
is slight. A child's fault is not condoned ; the father must 
pay. Some consideration is shown to a poor person by a 
benevolent chief, in order not " to kill him outright." 

That there is a real deep-seated desire that justice should 
prevail in the land is shown by the fact that these hot- 
blooded impetuous savages, as ready to stab as to smoke, 
provided that certain places should be regarded as sanctu- 
aries, on reaching which a criminal, even a warlock, was 
safe until brought to trial. Stories are still told of a criminal's 
wild race through hostile spears to one of these places ; if 
only he could get there he was safe. Many used to fail and 
fall mortally wounded in the chase. These places varied 
in different districts, but were generally either the hut of 
the chief, a temple over a grave, or a sacred grove such as 
that of Shimunenga at Mala and Chimbembe at Nanzela. 

The degree of equity which characterises the judicial 
proceedings of the Ba-ila depends on the character of the 


chief. Bribes are offered and taken, but the wholesome in- 
fluence of public opinion, the fear of alienating the people, 
and the weight and standing of the assisting assessors act as 
a powerful deterrent against gross favouritism or injustice. 

The Ba-ila are a litigious people, and extremely rapacious. 
Some of the cases brought before the chiefs, and even before 
the European magistrate, are extraordinary. The acme, 
we think, was reached in a claim brought by a man against 
another whose cock had committed adultery with his hen ; 
he gravely claimed damages amounting to the value of a 
cow. In the event they were persuaded that the ends of 
justice would be met by killing and eating the cock. 




The mutual intercourse of the Ba-ila is marked by two 
features : bluff independence on the one hand, and a 
scrupulous regard for the laws of politeness on the other. 
These seemingly contradictory things have their root in 
personal pride. A Mwila has too much self-respect to cringe 
to any one. Europeans often think him rude, but he is not 
meaningly so. Colonel Gibbons, one of the earlier travellers, 
was not at all favourably impressed by this feature of their 
character : " Savages, whose sole article of apparel con- 
sisted in a leather necklet constructed on the principle of 
a bootlace — armed cap-a-pie with assegai, axe, bow and 
poisoned arrows — they passed within a few feet of me 
without greetings or remark, scarcely a glance, and some- 
times a sneer. Never having seen a white man before, the 
ignoring of my presence by one and all of them, whether 
they passed by singly or in small groups, could only be 
remarkable, if not hostile." It certainly must have been 
remarkable to him, coming fresh from the more ostenta- 
tiously polite, not to say cringing, peoples of the south 
and west ; but we doubt as to it being hostility or calculated 
rudeness. Probably it was no more than bashfulness, 
mingled with a desire to show their independence. There 
is no doubt that superficially they are uncivil to strangers 
and among themselves. We have to remember that the 
freest nations are generally the rudest in manners. They 
have never been used, except when yielding to superior 
force, to acknowledge masters. The Barotsi made them 
salute by falling on their knees and clapping their hands. 



The Nanzela people have always had among themselves the 
custom of kamba'ing in this way. The European officials 
have insisted upon the Ba-ila saluting them in this servile 
fashion ; but it goes sorely against the grain. It is not a 
Bwila custom and is not practised among themselves. 
Any man or woman will go up to the biggest chief and, 
without any show of deference, address him bluntly, 
" Wabonwa, So-and-so " (" You are seen," i.e. " Good 
day. So-and-so "). 

But it must not be inferred from this that the Ba-ila are 
without a sense of etiquette. Indeed they have their own 
forms of politeness, which a person only departs from at the 
risk of earning a bad name. 

I. Salutations 

When a stranger arrives at a Ba-ila village he first asks 
where the chief is. He is directed, it may be, to the chief's 
hut, which, as we have seen, is always directly opposite the 
gateway. He enters the enclosure and sits down, on a 
stool which somebody hands him, or on the ground. No- 
body says a word : it is an act of politeness to give him 
time to collect himself, to wipe the perspiration from his 
brow, and settle comfortably. Somebody silently hands 
him a cup of water. Then the chief, or his representative, 
opens the conversation by saying, " Wabonwa " {" You are 
seen "). If the person is not a stranger, but a visitor from 
some village near by, the salutation is more intimate, 
" Wabuka " {" You have got up "). It is one of the conven- 
tions that the person at home must open the conversation ; 
till he is addressed the visitor should say nothing. In reply 
to the preliminary salutation he answers, " Ndabonwa. 
Wabonwa aze " ("I am seen. And you also are seen "). 
It is now open for others to salute him if they wish, and with 
every one, no matter how many they may be, the visitor 
must go through the same ritual. Then the conversation 
with the chief is resumed, following usually a definite course. 
The host asks, " Kwambwai ? " ("What is said?" i.e. 
" What is the news ? "). Although he may have much to 
tell, it is correct for the visitor simply to say, " Kwina. 



Tchita konoP " (" There is none. And here ? "). To which 
the chief may reply, " Kwina, kwatontola " (" There is 
nothing, all is quiet "), or he may tell anything that has 
happened. Afterwards the stranger will tell the news of 
his journey and of his home. If the visitor is known, the 
chief will enquire as to his wife and children, and the visitor 
will return the compHment. If the visitor is to spend the 
night, the chief will have food cooked for him, or at any 
rate will offer him milk or beer. When he wishes to go the 
visitor simply says, " Ndaya ; kamuchishite " ("I am going ; 
stay on ! ") ; to which the reply is " Koya " {" Go ") or 
" Amukashike " (" May you arrive ! "). If the chief wishes 
to show him respect, he accompanies the visitor to the 
gateway, or if he be a friend, will set him some way on the 

There are no extensive rules as to who should be the 
first to salute. Superiors may address inferiors, women 
men, or vice versa. Only, a child should not address an 
elder, but speak when spoken to. If it should salute an 
elder, the child would be called mwamu, a cheeky, forward 

People passing each other on a road are expected to 
stop and greet each other, but if either party should omit 
to do so, it is not esteemed a fault, though it is considered 
to be a silly impolite thing; and should some misfortune 
happen to the party who might have received warning if 
the others had stopped to talk, there might be serious 
trouble, as they would be held responsible. When two 
men pass each other, each goes to the right. It is con- 
sidered polite, at all events, to step off the path ; and in 
any case it must be on the right-hand side, so that the 
spear-hand is free in case of treachery. The proper etiquette 
for men passing each other is to stop, lay down spears, and 
salute each other. No rule exists as to who should open 
the conversation ; he who is a mumpaka, a ready-tongued 
person, will begin, anyhow. 

In regard to spears, it is right for a man to carry them 
into a strange village ; but he must put them down some- 
where before taking a seat, and before doing so, must ask, 
Nzekekwi? (" Where may I stand them ? "). This because 


the host may have some taboo as to his house, or other 
place, disallowing the placing of spears there. 

Ba-ila houses are open ; a visitor may enter by the open 
door without speaking or knocking, though it is considered 
more polite to ask permission to enter. Of course any one 
will be careful about entering another person's house, for 
if anything should afterwards be found missing or damaged, 
he would be held responsible ; but simply to enter in the 
daytime is no offence. 

The custom called kuyumbula, i.e. of giving a visitor an 
inyumhu or present of uncooked food, is not native to the 
Ba-ila, but is of Barotsi origin. It partakes of the nature 
of a tribute, and its more or less compulsory nature is 
disliked by the Ba-ila. But kutwila, to prepare food for a 
visitor, is Bwila custom. The host tells his wives to prepare 
food ; if he wishes to show much respect he brings it to 
the guest with his own hands, or at any rate offers it with 
his own hands, or his wives bring it. To ordinary people 
he sends the food by a servant. In any case he should take 
a taste of the food first. Should he not do so, and anything 
were to happen to the visitor, he would be liable to suspicion 
of witchcraft. The visitor should not eat alone ; if he has 
no companion, he should invite one of the villagers to share 
his repast. 

It is considered polite always to take a gift with both 
hands, not with one ; this very obviously shows appreciation 
of the magnitude of the gift, whereas to take it in one hand 
is to betray your sense of its inadequacy. 

On receiving food the visitor is not expected to say 
anything. When he leaves off eating, even if hunger be 
not satisfied, there should still remain something in the pot ; 
should he scrape it out, people might laugh at him for 
gluttony, and he would sink in their estimation. This is 
the rule for a stranger ; a fellow-villager or friend may 
eat, and should eat, all without reproach. The visitor then 
says, " Ndekuta ; wantwila. Nda lumba " (" I am satisfied ; 
you have given me food. I return thanks "). 

A casual visitor is not expected to give anything in return 
for hospitality shown him. If he is out hunting, however, 
or trading, he may offer some meat or some of his merchandise 


to the chief. If you were to offer your host anything, as an 
ordinary visitor, he might be offended and say, " Do I sell 
food ? " 

There are other courtesies extended to a favoured guest, 
such as lending him a wife. 

Hospitality is a virtue much esteemed, and is com- 
mended in many of their proverbs. 

2. Names 

A special department of Ila etiquette is that concerned 
with names. You cannot in Bwila call people by name 
indiscriminately ; some you may not address by the birth- 
name, others by neither birth-name nor nickname, others 
you may call by either. 

There are various kinds of names. The birth-name 
{izhina dia hiizhale) is the one given to a child soon after 
birth, when by the aid of the diviner it has been ascertained 
of which of its forebears it is the reincarnation. As the 
ancestor has come back to earth he naturally bears the 
name he had during his previous sojourn. The name is 
termed ndikando, ndi a inuzhimo {" the great one, the one 
of the divinity "). It is tonda, not to be lightly used, and 
though it remains with him all his life, it is strictly tonda 
for him to pronounce it. To call any one by his birth-name 
is to shokolola him, and that is an offence, except on the 
part of his father, mother, brothers, and sisters. 

The child is therefore given another name for everyday 
use, and this either describes some circumstance in the birth 
or points to some characteristic in the child itself. Such 
names are Nankuwa (" the howler"), Namashikwe (female) 
or Shimashikwe (male) ("born at night"), Namunza 
(female) or Shimunza (male) (" born in the daytime "). 
As he grows up, other names may be given. He may have 
an izhina dia huwezhi (" a hunting name "), such as Mukadi 
(" the brave ") . All such secondary names are called mazhina 
a champi, nicknames. 

A third great class of personal names are the mazhina 
a kutemhaula (" praise-titles "), by which a person is lauded. 
On occasions when he garumphs (to use Lewis Carroll's 


word; the Ba-ila say /ww6a) he shouts these titles aloud : "I 
am Luhahankofuntakutuzhiwa " (" a stinging plant that is not 
to be touched"); "I am Chahoshakutika-mafua-asekelele" 
(" he who gladdens by spilling that the hearthstone may 
rejoice "), etc. etc. They are bestowed upon a man by his 
fellows, or sometimes a man will boastfully entitle himself, 
in allusion to personal characteristics and exploits. Their 
use is a not very subtle form of flattering chiefs and others, 
when on occasion their followers hail them by these titles. 
We, in common with other Europeans, have had such names 
given to us, and as modest men have blushed when on 
entering a village at the head of our carriers they have 
shouted at the top of their voices for the edification of 
the inhabitants, " Here comes Shilangwamunyama-owakamu- 
langa-wakafwa (' he who is not to be looked at by a wild 
animal, for the one who looks at him falls dead ') ; Munene 
ntwizha-midimo (' the great one who greets you, not 
with food, but with word about his work ') " . . . " Here 
he is, Chitutamano (' the silent, cunning devil ') ; Shalu- 
mamha (' the man of wars ') ; Mukumhwanzala (' the 
one stirred to pity by the sight of hunger ') ; Mutuhankumu 
(' he who is white on the forehead ') ; Mulumi-a-Namusa ^ 
(' the husband of the mother of kindness ')," etc. etc. 

Some other names we have known are worth quoting as 
illustrations of the kind of qualities and deeds the Ba-ila 
esteem in their chiefs and fellows, and also to show their 
powers of expression. A hunter or warrior may be entitled 
Chilosha or Chitikaisha {" the great spiller of blood ") ; 
Kabange-mukolabanfu {" little-hemp, intoxicator of men ") 
i,e. he can overcome those far greater than himself ; 
Mukuluhala (" he who does not seek shelter, but stands in 
a clear space, facing the foe ") ; Inzokamuchile ("a snake 
in a bundle of wood"), i.e. dangerous ; Lufungula-tunyama 
(" great weaner of little animals ") ; Kankolomwena (" the 
rinderpest "), i.e. destroyer of animals and men ; Kawizulula 
(" the famine-breaker "), i.e. in famine time he feeds people 
on the game he kills ; Ikunikualumuka {" like a great log 
in transformation "), i.e. in ordinary times he can be handled 

1 Namusa, "the mother of kindness," was the title bestowed upon 
Mrs. E. W. Smith. 


with impunity, but on occasion he flares up hke a burning 
log. Mungaila of Kasenga has these among other titles : 
Chele ("porridge"), i.e. cool on top, but hot beneath the 
surface ; Kaambanamazwa (" he talks like a heap of 
demons "). Sezongo I. of Nanzela was named Shimuchinka- 
uchinka-huleza (" the great thunderer, who thunders like 
Leza himself ") ; Tandahala-munzhila-mukadi-a-kudiate (" he 
stretches out his legs across the road, so that a brave 
man may tread on them "), i.e. he is beyond being afraid 
of offending the bravest of men. Kakobela has the title 
Ihulmninahantu-owakadya'ze-ohukadi-kumwizhi (" roarer at 
men, and let him who eats with him not forget his fierceness ") . 
Other names are Kaludi-mutanganinwa-owahulea (" a little 
roof that requires a host of men to hoist into position "), 
i.e. he is not easily overcome; Luvhunahantu ("saviour 
of men"); Shikuboni ("he doesn't see you"), i.e. takes 
no notice of things done against him ; Chitwizhamanumhwa 
(" generous giver of food to the hungry ") ; Mwendakuseka 
(" he who goes about smihng ") ; Chozha (" the cooler-off "), 
i.e. like one who leaves his food to cool, he does not speak 
while in a temper; Katangakalula-kulnzha-matanganina, 
(" a sour melon which sours its fellow melons "), i.e. like a 
warlock who makes his friends warlocks, he is to be dreaded ; 
Kuhnshandwazhi (" he rises with sickness "), i.e. he does not 
allow sickness to keep him in bed when there is anything 
on ; Mutantahantu (" jumper on men "), i.e. he is a fierce 
man who fights without provocation. 

To hail any one by these names is an act of great polite- 
ness, but in regard to other names it is necessary to be 

To begin with, a person is not allowed to speak his own 
name. This is particularly the case in the presence of older 
people. For any one sacrilegiously to pronounce his name 
in their presence would be a serious fault. They might sell 
him up, make him a slave, or drive him out of the com- 
munity, unless his clansmen redeemed him. It is accounted 
an act of great rudeness, chisapi, but is not reckoned as 
buditazhi. In regard to it they say, " Balatondela bakando " 
(" They are taboo on account of the elders "). If you ask 
a person his name, he will turn to another and ask him to 


tell you. Nowadays they are getting accustomed to being 
asked their names by Europeans, who insist upon a man 
speaking for himself, but they get out of the difficulty 
by making up impromptu names for the occasion, or 
they take advantage of the grotesque names given to 
them by European employers — such as, Shilini, Tiki, 
Wiski, etc. 

A man may not pronounce his wife's name, at any rate 
unless and until she has borne him children ; nor his father's 
nor his mother's, nor the names of his parents-in-law, nor 
those of his bakwe, i.e. the brothers and sisters of his parents- 
in-law, nor those of the brothers and sisters of his wife, 
nor the name of his uncle. The last he addresses as Achisha ; 
his uncle's wife as Nachisha ; his brother's wife must be 
addressed as Muka-mukwesu. A woman must observe 
similar rules ; and she calls hei husband by his champi 
names, or addresses him as Munaisha. 

The reason for these taboos is that by pronouncing a 
name you may bring misfortune upon the person or upon 
yourself. It is the same sort of a feeling that prevents 
some people speaking of a ghost when passing through a 
churchyard at midnight. Talk of the devil 

When you are travelling through the veld it is not right 
to speak of a lion by name : you must call him Shikunze 
{" the outsider ") or Kabwenga mukando {" the great 
hyaena "), or you may bring him upon you. It is the same 
motive which forbids people staying in the village to speak 
by name of people away on business. An absent hunter may 
only be referred to as Shimwisokwe (" he who is in the 
veld ") ; a warrior as Shilumamha (" the warrior ") or 
Shimpi (" the fighter ") ; a fisherman as Shimulonga {" the 
river man"), a merchant as Mwendo ("the trader"). 
Were you to mention the name of any of these, accidents 
would befall them. And certain things must be treated in 
the same way. When you are engaged in smelting iron 
you must not speak of Fire, but only of Mukadi (" the 
fierce one ") ; and when women are threshing grain they 
may neither drink water nor speak of it by name ; they 
must, if it is necessary at all, refer to it as mawa Leza (" that 
which falls from the sky "). 



Not only must one refrain from speaking the names we 
have mentioned, but one must avoid speaking of things 
by their names when those names bear a close resemblance 
to the person's names. 

As we shall see, a man gives his bride a new name, and 
he may not call her by her maiden name, at any rate before 
the birth of the first child. In the same way the wife may 
not speak the husband's name. To do so is to tuka (" curse ") 
him. More than that, they may not use the names in 
ordinary speech. A man, e.^., is named Shamatanga and his 
wife Kahihi. Matanga means melons, and Kaluhi is the 
shortened form of kalubiluhi, the name of a kind of mush- 
room. The woman must not speak of melons as matanga, 
but as malumi angu ("my husbands"). Nor may he 
speak of those mushrooms by their proper name, but as 
henangu (" my wives "). The rule extends to the children, 
who must speak of the melons as masediata (" my father's 
namesakes"), and the mushrooms as husediama ("my 
mother's namesakes"). The rule extends also to the near 
relations on both sides. The man's wife's father and mother 
and sisters may not speak of matanga but of masediata 
(" father's namesakes ") ; nor may his brother, father, or 
mother speak of kalubiluhi, but of masediama (" mother's 

To offend against this law is kushokolola, kutuka (" to 
curse"), or kutengula ("to despise"). Of course, as a 
matter of fact, the rule is broken, for it would pass the wit 
of man to avoid speaking the names of all objects which 
enter into the names of his relations, but it is considered a 
fault all the same. A person could claim to be paid a fine 
of one or two hoes on account of a breach of the rule. 

It is an act of politeness to avoid pointed reference to a 
thing whose name enters into the formation of the person's 
name whom you are addressing. Polite natives pay attention 
to this rule in the case of Europeans, who all have native 
names founded on some characteristic of theirs. Thus, a 
friend of ours who is named Kandiata (" Mr. Kicker ") tells 
us that if any one has occasion to speak of " kicking " in 
his presence he substitutes the word kiitima ("to beat"). 
This, of course, is to conform to a rule of politeness common 

VOL. I 2 B 


among ourselves. Should we be lunching with a person 
unfortunate enough to be named Pickle, we should naturally 
avoid pointed reference to pickles. 

3. Offences against the Person 

{a) Buditazhi Offences 

The scope of the Ba-ila laws of personal respect may be 
gathered from an enumeration of some of the offences 
which may be committed. The first of these in importance 
come under the heading of Buditazhi, the essence of which is, 
as we have said before, that the offender is liable to be 
seized and held to ransom. 

[a) To throw ash upon a person. That there is some- 
thing about the ash that is sacred is seen by the fact that it 
is a common oath, Nditwe ! (" By the ash ! "). To take up 
a handful of ashes and scatter them over anybody is a great 
offence. It is a common method adopted by persons who 
for any reason wish to enslave themselves, and by slaves 
who wish to have a new master. Should a slave be ill- 
treated, he knows it is of little use running away simply, 
for every hand is against him and he is soon brought back ; 
but if he has seen that another man is merciful to his slaves, 
he runs to him and throws some ash over him. Ipso facto 
he becomes that man's slave, and if his old master wants 
him he has to pay a ransom. If he is a kindly person, who 
knows the reputation of the old master, he will put his 
claim so high that the other cannot pay, and the slave 
remains his. 

[h) To call a person out of his name. We remember a 
case brought into court. A woman visiting a village saw 
two children of A. She was familiar with one of them 
and knew his name ; the other she did not know. She 
got confused as to the name, and unfortunately addressed 
one of them by the name of the other. The father seized 
her, and she had to be redeemed by the payment of a cow 
and an ox. 

(c) To claim falsely relationship with a man or to 
address another as your relation when he is not. We 



remember a little schoolboy claiming damages against 
another who had addressed him as musazhima (" my 
relation "). 

{d) To tell a man that So-and-so is the relation of some- 
body else. Thus A tells B that C is B's relation ; B 
goes and addresses C as such ; C then sues B for calling 
him a relation when he is not, and B in turn sues A who 
misinformed him. Of A it is said wamuditazha (" he causes 
B to commit huditazhi "). 

[e] To throw a person down on excrement : kumu- 
wisJiizha a mazhi. It may not be done intentionally, or in 
anger, but it is a fault all the same. There was a case in 
court where a cow was claimed from the guardians of a 
boy who in play had thrown another boy on the ground 
and he had fallen on to some excrement. 

(/) To bring a false accusation, or to bear false witness : 
kulengelela imiwi kambo. There is nothing about which a 
Mwila waxes more eloquently angry than this. There is a 
boomerang action about accusing another that forces a 
man to keep his mouth shut, or to be very sure of his facts ; 
for should he fail to substantiate his charge, he is at once 
held to ransom, no matter how small the charge may have 
been. It is not, one thinks, always a matter of moral 
indignation, so much as a welcome opportunity of squeezing 
a substantial fine out of the culprit. As we were writing 
this section, our house-boy burst rudely into the room, and, 
beating his fists on his chest, worked himself up into a 
frenzy of indignation. Earlier in the day we had had 
occasion to punish a lad for repeated misconduct, and this 
house-boy had been informed by another boy that he had 
heard from somebody else that he had told us of the ill- 
doing of the boy. 

{g) To accuse a person of being a warlock or witch : 
kiilahula. This is a special and very heinous form of the 
preceding. It is of frequent occurrence, and always 
arouses great wrath. Among numerous cases we are ac- 
quainted with, we may select these as examples : A man, 
A, met two women, B, C, on the road, and as he passed 
them one called out to him : " Why don't you salute us ? 
You are mulozhi ! " Afterwards A went to D, the husband. 


to make a claim, but D refused to pay A because he had a 
contra-case against A for calling his wife, C, by a name 
that was not hers. He, D, claimed a cow for this. As D 
wouldn't pay, A went to the women's hut to take them 
off to his village, but some men heard the disturbance and 
drove him off, after giving him a beating. A did not deny 
having miscalled C, but said it was before he had come 
close and saw who it was. D had to pay A an ox because 
of the beating. 

A man named Z took some grain to pay a woman diviner 
to diagnose the illness of his wife. On his return, two men, 
X and Y, asked him where he had been. They refused to 
believe him, and said : " No, you are a mulozhi : you have 
been dancing the whole night." X said that one night 
there were no people but himself and a woman in the 
village, as they had all gone to a feast ; very late he heard 
the cattle running about, and coming out he found Z holding 
some grass in both hands in front of a house in which X's 
wife lay sick. He asked Z what he was doing and where 
he came from, and Z wouldn't answer. He went to drive 
the cattle in and Z disappeared. He was quite convinced 
of Z's evil intentions ; but Z indignantly repelled the 
charge and claimed heavy compensation. 

{h) To question a person about a fault which he has not 
committed. This is kuzunga. If I have lost a thing, or 
something has been broken, and I ask a man if he has done 
it ; if it should prove that he is innocent, he will claim 
damages for buditazhi. This is kuzunga mwanaheni muntu 
munwe ("to suppose a person as a bad fellow"). It is 
also kuzunga if you say of a person, " I wonder whether 
So-and-so did it." 

[i) To inform upon a person, thus causing him to get 
into trouble. Ba-ila have this schoolboy virtue to a marked 
degree ; for one " to split " upon another is a rare thing ; 
and, if done, it is reckoned a crime. 

[j) To perform any act towards a person that in some 
way makes him, in the imagination of his fellows, to be 
like a dead person. Under this heading are such things 
as : (i) To carry a person frog-march, as in a hammock. 
This is only excusable in the case of relations carrying a 


sick or wounded person. (2) To lift any one up and say, 
" You are heavy ! " (3) To knock out a tooth, to cut off 
a finger or ear in a fight, for this means that a part of the 
person has to be buried. For a doctor to amputate a hmb 
would be a great crime ; only relations, and that only when 
it is absolutely imperative, may perform such an operation. 
(4) To call a person by the name of a dead person. 

(k) To be the means of causing another an injury, 
(i) If you call people to go and hunt a lion or leopard 
and one of them gets wounded or killed ; (2) if you take a 
youngster on a journey and any harm befalls him ; (3) if 
you deceive a person, kumuchitila chongela, by asking him 
to do something or go somewhere, and in doing so he meets 
with an accident ; (4) if you take any one in a canoe and 
he is drowned — in all these cases you commit huditazhi. 

(l) The reason in the preceding cases is that you are 
supposed to have bewitched the person whom the accident 
has befallen. To do anything whatever to a person which 
may lead people to think you desire his death is huditazhi. 
Thus : (i) To put your hand on a person's head. For 
this reason the Ba-ila considered it wrong to send or take a 
young person away from home, because, being short, any 
one might easily lay a hand on his head. They are not so 
particular in this nowadays. (2) To pluck a hair from any 
one's head, or to take away any hair cut from a person's 
head. Such hair was carefully buried.^ (3) To take a tooth 
out, to knock it out, or to pull out a loose tooth from one 
who is not a relation. 

(m) To micturate upon a person, to have a nocturnal 
emission upon a person (other than a relation) : kumulotela, 
kumusubila hwenze ; to attempt sodomy. 

(w) To cause any one to dig the grave of a stranger. 

(0) To make a sacrifice to another person's divinity. 

(/)) To tell a man that So-and-so are his relations. If 
a person in a village is bereft of his kinsmen and his neigh- 
bours know, as he does not, that he has relations elsewhere, 
they must refrain from informing him. The idea is that 
they may make a mistake, and misinform him, when they 
would be liable to be enslaved by the people spoken of, 

^ Yet they buy hair to incorporate it in their impumbe (see p. 71). 


Whence the proverb Ku mukoa nku kutashindikilwa, muntu 
uladitola mwini ("To a clan is where a person is not 
accompanied, a person finds his own way "). 

{q) For a woman to suckle a child not belonging to her 

[r) To marry a widow to whom you have no right. 
This is kukosola lulala, kunjidila mukaintu. If a woman's 
husband dies, and a man who is not the heir marries her, 
he commits a great crime. He may be enslaved by the 
relations of the heir or of the woman. There was a case at 
Nanzela. Posha's husband died, and a man named Silwele 
took her as his wife ; it was regarded as a crime, but because 
Posha had no relations and the community at the time was 
in a disturbed state, no case was made of it. 

(s) For a female under the age of puberty to touch the 
pudenda of a man. Some reckon this as huditazhi, but 
others say it is only chisapi. We have known of a man 
claiming a cow against a girl who had accidentally done this. 

{t) For a woman during the menses to touch her hus- 
band's gun. 

4. Offences against the Person 

[h] Matushi 

Matushi is a term that includes all manner of vilification : 
derogation, disparagement, denigration, contumely, vitupera- 
tion, scurrility, calumny, insult, ridicule ; all kinds of 
indecent remarks, and some rude acts. Aggravated matushi 
are called malamhatushi. The verb is kutuka ; wantuka, 
("you vilify me"). Matushi are reckoned as chisapi, 
but more, they are taboo, in the sense that the 
shimatushi may have evil brought upon him by their use ; 
they are reckoned also as huditazhi, and the offender is 
liable to be fined. The Ba-ila, one must say, are adepts in 
the art of bad language. Ordinarily they are scrupulous 
in avoiding the use of insults, but when they let themselves 
go they can, and do, pour forth a rich torrent of abuse. 
An eloquent Mwila could emulate the famous American 
who was said to swear for three-quarters of an hour without 
repeating himself. We once asked one of our young men 


to write down a list of matushi and he reeled off nearly three 
hundred as fast as he could write. 

One form of matushi is the ridiculing of a person by 
likening his members to various things, repulsive or 
grotesque ; these are called matushi a kusampaula muntu, 
i.e. derogations or detractions. They may be addressed 
directly to the person, or said of him indirectly. Here are 
a few examples : 

You who have a mouth like the pouch of a stork. 

You who have teeth spaced out like the keys of an unskilfully 
made piano {kankobele). 

You who have eyes the size of a louse. 

You who have cheeks like one with the mumps. 

You with a member tiny as a leech. 

You with eyes shelterless as a chameleon's. 

You with a long-pointed nose like a weasel. 

You draw in j^our belly as one who fords a deep river. 

You have furrows on your forehead like the waves on a 

You have a withered chest as if you forgot to eat bread last 

You go along stooping like a man carrying demons on his 

You stick out your belly as if you were going to have twins. 

You who wag your buttocks like a fat old maid. 

You pull a face like one passing hard things. 

You are morose as one who has heard of the death of a 

You go off in a hurry like a man who has something in his 

Your nose turns up like a wild pig's. 

You whose head is as bare as a threshing-floor. 

You who have long finger-nails like an ant-bear. 

You whose ears are as long as a Kudu's. 

Another form of matushi is to shout out remarks about 
the private or other parts of a man's relations. 

Mukanwa ka hanoko (" the inside of your mother's mouth ! ") 
Matako a hanoko (" your mother's buttocks ! "). 
Inango dia ushe (" your father's nose ! "). 

Yet another and more obvious form of insult is to 
accuse a person, even in jest, of doing atrocious things. 


You slept with your mother ! You hurt your mother ! You 
stretched your sister ! You married your aunt ! You cursed 
your mother ! You spoke of your mother's private parts ! You 
used your sister's name in a curse. Mwana Mawe-twamana ! 
{" Child of ' Dear-me !-We-are-done ' "). 

And another form is to speak of a person in relation 
to his near relations' members. " Child of your father's 
glans ! " — " Child of your mother's genitalia ! " — " Child of 
the vagina ! " 

Other matushi are such expressions as these : 

Mwana chisapi (" child of indecency ! "). 
Mwana mulumhu (" child of a foreigner ! "). 
Mwana muzhike (" child of a slave ! "). 
Wezu mulumhu (" this foreigner ! "). 

As might be expected, many of the rules of etiquette 
govern the intercourse between men and women. One of 
these rules is that it is a form of matushi for a man of one 
village to express his admiration for the women of another 
village, i.e, for a Kasenga man to say, " Babota hakaintu ha 
ku Bamhwe ! " ("How fine the Bambwe women are!"). 
Nor may women express admiration for the men of another 
community. It is called kushomausha, or kushomezha, and 
regarded as a very serious breach of decorum. As we were 
told, mbulowe hoho, malweza, ku hahele kwamh'oho {" it's 
like witchcraft, a terrible atrocious thing for them to talk 
like that ' '). H they hear of a man speaking in that way the 
women give him a rough time. " How are they fine ? " 
they demand, " What have they got that we haven't ? 
You have slighted us by comparing us to our disparage- 
ment with our fellow- women. You tuka us." And they 
make him wish he had never been born. He has to pay 
heavily to all the women of his village. 

In cases like this — offences against the sex — the women 
stand solidly as one against the men. It is not an affair 
of individuals : a member of one sex has blackguarded the 
other sex, and the whole of the males in the village are re- 
garded as participating in the offence. It is woman against 
man. The women have a simple way of asserting the 
rights of the sex, at once simpler and more efficacious than 


the methods of some of their civihsed sisters. They go 
on strike. They down tools, hoe and pestle, grinding- 
stone and cooking-pot ; and the helpless men, faced with 
starvation, speedily surrender. The women refuse to be 
appeased until ALL the men of the village come and 
apologise for the one man's fault and bring gifts. 

It is accounted as chisapi and matushi to speak of a 
person's private parts, or certain natural functions of the 
body, or to break wind, in a mixed company. If a man 
were to allude to faeces before women they would indignantly 
ask why he should tuka them, and he would have to pay 
them hoes or other things. The same applies to women. 
" These things," said one of our informants, " are without 
respect to persons {aza makani taasala), whether it be slave 
or rogue or chief, good or bad, whoever offends in these 
matters is fined by his fellows." 

Not only must one refrain from these indelicacies, but, 
what is more difficult, one should when in a mixed company 
avoid the use of words and expressions of the same or 
similar sound. This is difficult, we say. The language 
abounds in the syllables nya, nye, nyo, and these are to be 
avoided (because 7iya means to defaecate, nyo the anus), 
though it would seem impossible entirely to do so as they 
enter into the names of very common things. Ground-nuts, 
e.g. are nyemo, and by strict etiquette that word and others 
like it are indecent in company. 

There are many such expressions which cannot very 
well be avoided in ordinary speech. A polite person will 
steer clear of them as much as possible, but if he should 
stumble upon them he cannot be blamed. As they would 
say in such a case, makani aina hwisho (" the words have 
no room to pass "), they must collide with decent notions. 
It is otherwise with a man who repeatedly and of set 
purpose uses such words. 

For example, if a man be asked, " Mwidi ngomhe, sa, 
mu chimpati?" ("Is the beast in the kraal? ") if it is in, 
he has no alternative but to answer "Mwidi" ("It is 
in"), but that is an indecent expression. If you ask a 
person where he is going, and he answers, " Ndaya u niashi," 
(" I am going among the people "), that is a vague reply, 


and you press him to be definite : " U mashikwi ?" {" What 
people ? "), you ask. He still refuses to satisfy your curiosity 
and says, " U mashi no! " {" Why, there among the people, 
of course ! "). His evasion has led him into an indecency 
{u mashi no = u mashino) . Words beginning with muse, such 
as musekelembwe {" things put separately and apart "), 
are to be avoided in a mixed assembly, not because they 
are indecent in themselves, but because of muse, which as 
a word by itself means the pleasure of the sexual act. The 
plural of the word for river, i.e. inyenge, is a rude word, as 
it has another signification. To say wantenta {" you burn 
me"), kumana ("it is finished") is also impolite because 
they are expressions that may be used in private acts. 
Kunyonkola means to pluck out a bird's feathers, but also 
to pluck out hair from the pubes, and so impolite ; if you 
must refer to plucking a fowl, you use the word kokola. 
Kusansumuna (to wipe) has also a special signification, 
and you must be careful in company to use a synonym such 
as kushula. 

To get round words in this way is called kuzelulusha. 
Kulusha kwamha is to speak them without evil intention, 
and it is quite recognised that a man may be involuntarily 
rude ; unless you are a shimancha, a very quick-witted 
person, there are so many pitfalls that you are bound to 
offend some time or other. One who uses them carelessly 
is called a shapowe, and of such they say, " He is like a 
man who drinks hurriedly without taking the bits of dirt 
out of his milk." 

It has taken us years to understand these matters. 
We fear to remember, we who have had so frequently to 
address mixed audiences, how often we must have trans- 
gressed in ignorance these rules of politeness. 

5. The Regard for Truth 

This section might be made as short as the celebrated 
chapter on snakes in Ireland — " There are none." For 
the laws of etiquette do not include a clause against lying : 
rather the contrary. The Ba-ila, like the people in Hudibras, 
are " for profound and solid lying, much renowned." No 



European can trust their word ; it is safest to doubt every 
statement they make, and not to rely in the least upon 
any promise. iVmong themselves they lie in the most 
barefaced and strenuous manner. Little children soon 
learn the trick of lying without the least shame. They 
lie often when it is to their advantage to tell the truth. 
A person caught in the very act of thieving will ardently 
protest that he has never seen the things in question. 
You do not listen long to any Ba-ila conversing without 
hearing somebody call out, " Wahea " (" You are lying ") ; 
and the one to whom it is said is not indignant — not in the 
least — but smiles and accepts it as a tribute to his prowess. 
It is altogether against their code of honour ever to admit 
they are lying or ever to confess to wrongdoing. 

Thev lie in support of each other in the most shameless 
fashion. In earlier days we once, when sitting in company 
with a group of men, asked a direct question as to a well- 
known custom. To our amazement the first man addressed 
denied that there ever was such a custom ; turning to 
another, we said, " Don't you remember telling u^. so- 
and-so ? " " No," was the answer, " there is no such 
custom." And every man strenuously denied that ever 
such a thing existed, something which there was no reason 
whatever for hiding, and which some of them individually 
had discussed with us before. We spoke to our friend 
Mungalo about it. He laughed and said, " That is Kano 
Bwila (the funny little way of the Ba-ila). The first man 
had some reason for denying and of course the others 
couldn't give him awa}^ My friend, there are ways and 
ways of asking questions." Needless to say, we profited 
by the hint, and never again put direct questions to a 
company of men. 

Much of this lying and deception may be , attributed 
to their sense of politeness ; they do not want to hurt one's 


* * * 


I. How Property is acquired 

The Ba-ila have no vast property apart from their land 
and their cattle, but what they have they cling to very 
tenaciously, and vigorously resent any unlawful interference 
with it. 

Property may be classed according to whether it is held 
by one person or held conjointly as by a man and his wife, 
or as by a clan, or by a community as a whole. 

The Ba-ila recognise individual ownership, but, as we 
shall see, some people can only hold their possessions at 
the pleasure of their superiors. And one numerous class 
cannot hold property at all, viz. slaves : all they have 
belongs to their masters. 

One feature of the Ba-ila laws is recognition of the 
holding of property by women. 

Women can become possessors like men through their 
labour ; to some extent what they earn is their own. An 
unmarried woman or widow [shikatanda) often accumulates 
property in her own right, so much so as to become what 
the Ba-ila call mukaintu sakata mwinimwini (" very much 
a woman of bitterness "), the adjective meaning, not what 
it does with us, but dignity, position. Such a woman, not 
inherited by her late husband's successor, or left alone by 
him for some reason, may start on a fresh career of her 
own. By work in her fields she may secure a good harvest 
when others fail, and, the grain being in demand, she 
becomes rich on the proceeds. She gets cattle and slaves, 




and both contribute further to her wealth. And as riches 
makes the chief, according to the proverb, she may eventu- 
ally have a village of her own and rank as a chief. 

Such a woman was Kasale, a somewhat famous woman 
who lived at Ichila, and died there at an advanced age in 
1914. She was known far and wide for her wealth. She 
was not always rich ; she was once the wife of a nobody, 
and possessed little or nothing of her own. The Ba-ila, as 
is their way, attributed her prosperity to the fact that she 
had " eaten medicine " in extraordinary quantity for the 
purpose of securing long life and wealth. She had " eaten " 
no less than four of the most powerful drugs, made respec- 
tively from the shin bones of a wild dog, a crocodile, a 
lion, and a man ; the last, the bone of a mwalanze, an outcast 
living in the forest and wandering from place to place, and 
very powerful medicine. Before she died, she ordered her 
people not to bury her for four days — one day for each of 
these drugs — so not till the fifth day did they inter her and 
weep for her. The four medicines she had consumed caused 
her to become the animals named — wild dog, crocodile, 
lion, and vagabond. So to-day she is wandering around 
the country in the guise of four creatures. 

Women do a great deal of work. They do most of the 
cultivation, and they have a certain right to the produce 
of their labour. The grain and nuts, etc., are not absolutely 
a woman's, but belong, as they say, " to the house " {nshi 
sha munganda) ; from this store she draws for their daily 
requirements. The test of ownership is what is done with 
the things when, as usually happens, the marriage is dis- 
solved. The food-stuffs " of the house " are divided between 
husband and wife in such a case. Basket by basket they 
are measured out, and she takes to her home her half, and 
the husband retains his. On the other hand, both husband 
and wife may have a katanda, a private garden, the produce 
of which is held not conjointly but individually. If the 
husband wishes to have part of her private store she has 
the right to demand payment or an equivalent in exchange. 
If she wishes, she can sell the grain and buy things for 
herself. In case of dissolution of marriage, she takes with 
her the whole of this property. 


A chief will have a field especially cultivated for him 
by his slaves or servants, the produce of which is used by 
him for the entertainment of visitors. If there are only one 
or two visitors, he may ask his wife to provide for them 
out of the household stuff, but if there are many in the 
company, he feels it would be burdensome upon the wife, 
and so sends to take the necessaries from the. "guest 

Many women are expert basket and pot makers, and 
these things are in demand by their neighbours. They 
belong to the maker, and if she sells them the proceeds are 
hers. She may buy things they need in the house — may 
buy hoes, for example — and share the use of them with 
her husband. If he needs the proceeds for himself she 
may, and if they are living together on good terms she 
most likely will, give him what he wants ; but he has no 
right to them, and if she refuses can do nothing. And if 
the marriage is dissolved she takes the things with her. 

As for her clothing and ornaments, if she has bought 
them for herself out of the proceeds of her labour, they are 
her own. If she is given them by her husband, they are 
" of the house," and she has no absolute right to them. 
If they separate, the husband may, if kindly disposed, tell 
her to take them, or may give her part — say one skin petti- 
coat out of two — but he has the right to keep them. 

One present from her husband is hers absolutely : the 
impau, or receptacle for fat used to anoint herself, given to 
her when married. She would take this with her if divorced. 

Ba-ila women have another way of earning property, 
by what is virtually prostituting themselves. Husband 
and wife make an arrangement by which she goes out 
kuweza lubono ("to hunt wealth"); she returns to report, 
and the husband promptly claims a cow from the man 
concerned. Such cattle belong to the husband. In this 
way she not only secures herself in her husband's affection 
— for the man, strange as it may seem to us, thinks all the 
more of her because she adds to his wealth — but after she 
has earned several cows for him he may give her one for 
herself. This is her own, and the progeny is hers ; so that 
a " faithful " wife may in time become wealthy. 

Photo /•:. //'. Smith. 

A MwiLA Woman carrying a Water-pot. 


A custom like this shows that while a husband has no 
absolute claim to the service of his wife's hands, her sexual 
quality is his. By the chiko he has secured the usufruct of 
her body. And this is brought out by another fact also : 
a woman has no right to her children. They are not hers, 
but his, notwithstanding the fact that they take her clan 
name. If the marriage is dissolved, the husband retains 
the children. If she is nursing an infant, she may have it 
till weaned, and then must return it to him. 

Men, like women, are entitled to the fruits of their 

As for hunting, the game is the property of the man 
who first wounds it ; if he wounds it ever so slightly— even 
though it be but a grazing of the skin — and another gives 
it the death-stroke {kusunta). The real killer of the animal 
is only a musuzhi, that is, is given a piece of the meat, but 
has no claim. Such an animal is called munyama kalonda 
("beast with slight wound"). A party of hunters may 
be under the leadership of an elder — ^an experienced man. 
When an animal is killed, he distributes the meat, though 
it is not his, but they all share. His perquisite is one of 
the hind legs : the other leg is the mwabo {" portion ") of 
the owner. The hukome (" the loins ") are the perquisite of 
the chief. The owner of the game, i.e. the hunter who first 
wounded it, has certain portions that are his peculiarly — 
the heart, the head, the feet, and the insanda (" breast "). 
Then on his return home he cooks and, invites his man- 
friends to share the feast. No woman must share in it. 
These portions have some mystic significance ; they supply 
him with strength and skill in hunting. (The insanda is 
always the portion of a beast sacred to the men ; at a 
funeral when an ox is killed, the men eat this portion to 
give them strength.) 

As for a beast found dead in the veld : if a hunter on 
returning home informs people that he has wounded such 
and such an animal, then should any one find it dead 
(kuwula) his claim to it is recognised. Should he say nothing, 
it belongs to the finder. If it is found by others who have 
not heard his notification, it is theirs. 

If a party of hunters find the carcase of an elephant, it 


belongs to the head hunter, not to the member of the party 
who first spotted it. He may take one of the tusks and 
give the other to the finder. The ground tusk is always 
accounted the property of the chief upon whose land it is 
taken ; if the elephant is found on such land, the chief 
takes the ground tusk and gives the other to the head 
hunter and the finder conjointly. 

The head hunter has responsibility for the safety of 
those whom he has invited to accompany him ; shoiUd one 
of them be injured or killed in the hunt, his relations will 
come down on the head hunter for damages. 

All the personal property held by a Mwila is subject to 
the rule that his elder relations on both sides have the right 
to take from him what they want. This is to nanga {" to 
seize"), " convey, the wise it call" ; it is not reckoned as 
robbery. The mwana, or child, as he is in regard to his 
elders, is likened to a bag which can be taken b}^ you to 
carry things, out of which you can help yourself, and it 
can say nothing ; also to a lumano, a pair of pincers, for 
the elder uses him to convey things to himself ; also to a 
soft skin which can be turned this way and that without 
rebellion. Anything he has is at the call of the elders. 
We have had many opportunities of seeing this in practice. 
A young man working in our employ will perhaps have 
managed to save several pounds out of his earnings ; when 
the tax-time comes he is besieged by a lot of lazy fellows, 
who nanga him of every penny he has. Young men who 
go away to work for lengthy periods have very little to 
show for it after being home again a few weeks. The chief 
takes his pickings, and everybody who has any claim to 
relationship. One young man we remember was away two 
years and came back with quite a store of things : a ten- 
shilling blanket (this was seized by the chief), a quantity'- 
of beads (these his female relations shared between them), 
a lot of calico (his elder brothers had this), a fine overcoat 
(this somebody else took), five shillings in cash (seized by 
an aunt), a tin box and an iron cooking-pot (these he 
managed to retain ) ; there was also an impande shell which 
the chief wished for, but the young man had set his heart 
upon buying a gun with this, and his insistence prevailed 

VOL. I 2 c 


upon the chief to give him one in exchange for the shell. 
Some fare worse than this man did, for they have nothing 
left at all except the smart clothes, and those soon decay. 

This is not made a matter of complaint by the young 
men. They know it is the custom, and that they them- 
selves will benefit by it when their younger brothers and 
nephews and cousins go out to work. And, moreover, the 
young man knows full well that if his elders are ready to 
seize upon his belongings, they will be equally ready to 
give of their substance in the day of his need — when he 
marries, to provide the chiko ; and when he gets into trouble, 
to pay his fines or redeem him from slavery. So that on 
the whole he is not the loser : and by working for his 
family he increases its wealth. 

On the other hand, a young person has the same right 
to nanga things of certain of his relations. Grandfathers 
(see p. 339) hold their goods at the pleasure of their grand- 

A person may gain property by looking after things 
belonging to others. Such things are mostly cattle belonging 
to people who live in the " fly " and cannot therefore look 
after their own. The herder has the use of the cattle, i.e. the 
milk is his, but he is paid no wages. On the death of the 
owner, however, he picks out one of his own cattle and 
sends it to the funeral feast as his chidizho ; those in his 
charge he does his best to retain as his own, inventing all 
sorts of excuses and false claims to avoid parting with the 
cherished beasts. If he is a strong man he may succeed 
in keeping them, or at least he will send back only part. 
In a case that came into court, A had handed his cousin B 
about a hundred cattle to herd for him. At A's death onlv 
ten were left. Before dying, A told B he was to have one 
of his wives as lukono. B returned the cattle except two, 
one of which he said had been given him by A and the 
other he retained till he should get the " rafter," as the wife 
is called. He did not receive her, so kept the cow, and C, 
A's heir, brought a case against him for it. 

A shimalelo, one who acts as guardian to a child, is in 
the position of a parent and receives no wages for looking 
after the child. He gets the services, of course, but no 


more. If the child is a girl he will receive a beast or two 
out of the cliiko ; if it is a boy he will be called upon to 
kwela him, i.e. find part of the chiko for his wife. 

Communal property consists first and principally of the 
land occupied by the community, and which has descended 
to them, perhaps, from remote ancestors ; and, secondly, 
what is on the land and in the rivers flowing through it — 
the trees and fruit, the game, the fish. 

Every chisJti is divided into makute by well-recognised 
boundaries. No passer-by would know these boundaries : 
they are purely natural — a tree, an ant-heap, a certain 
direction ; all very vague, apparently, but known to all 
concerned as well as if fenced in with a stone wall. All 
boundaries are taboo. The chief apportions the land to 
his people for their fields : he does it in the presence of a 
company so that there ma}' be no doubt about it. When 
a person has his field apportioned he puts in a few stakes, 
and afterwards clears a line around it. Woe to any one 
who moves his neighbour's marks ! It is kamho kazumozumo, 
a very serious crime. Batunanga inshi, hatudya (" They 
take away our land ; they eat us up ! ") is the cry, and, if 
done b}^ a neighbouring community, it soon leads to war. 

The land held by a community is invested in the chief 
as its head and representative. He is the mwini-inshi 
("master of the land"). He may not alienate it except 
by the permission of his people. He receives it with all 
the taboos attached to it — the sacred groves, the trees, 
ant-hills, pools, streams, the matongo, all of them with 
taboos attached — and it is his to see that none is violated, 
and to hand them on to his successor intact. 

Should a stranger wish to come to live on the land, a 
luheta is called and the matter discussed. Many things 
have to be taken into consideration, chiefly the character 
of the applicant ; there is need for some circumspection in 
this respect, for sometimes, like the camel in the fable, 
an undesirable person gets his head in and ends by turning 
the rightful owners out, or, at least, making himself their 
master. But unless patently undesirable the chief and his 
people are not likely to refuse him, because he adds to their 
number and dignity. The chief points out a place where 


he may build and cultivate, and informs him of taboos he 
needs to know. If he oversteps the borders allotted to him 
he will get into trouble. 

Occasionally land may be sold ; the purchaser acquires 
not only the land but all the rights not specifically reserved. 
The purchase price — in cattle, or whatever it may be — is 
named itongo, and remains the property of the community. 
It may remain in charge of the chief, or be handed over to 
a trustworthy elder. Only in time of very urgent need, and 
only then with the permission of his people, may the chief 
use any of it. 

No person may commit trespass on another community's 
land. If a stranger wishes to hunt game, or to fish, he must 
first ask permission, and then lumhula a portion of his 
gains ; this is called an impaizho (" an offering "), acknow- 
ledging the privilege granted. People wishing to gather 
fruit must also ask permission. Failure to do this means 
confiscation of the game, or fish, or fruit ; in former days it 
meant death. Numerous wars have been caused by trespass 
of this kind. In addition to getting the permission of the 
chief, the strangers who wish to fish or hunt will also take 
steps to have sacrifices offered to the mizhimo to ensure 
their success. 

This implies what one might call " spiritual ownership," 
which is not in the hands of the community as a whole, 
but in a certain family, and the head as its representative. 

As an example of such ownership, we may instance the 
pool named Muvhumenzhi in the Kasenga district. It is 
fed by freshets during the rainy season, and only in years 
of severe drought becomes absolutely dry. At one time 
the pool belonged to the Kaulizhi people of the neighbour- 
ing Bambwe chishi, but in one of the numerous wars between 
the two peoples the ba-Mala seized it as the fruits of their 

{victory. In ancient times the pool had belonged to the 
ancestors of a man now living named Nalunkwamba, 
and the family still held what we call the " spiritual owner- 
ship " of the pool. We mean that the ghosts of their 
I ancestors were the guardians of the pool, and as they could 
' only be approached through their living representatives, 
and no fishing could be done before their good-will was 


secured, the living family were regarded as heni-izhiha 
(" masters of the pool "), though it really belonged to the 
community. In the " war," among the five people killed 
were members of this family, and Nalunkwamba was the 
surviving representative. The ba-Mala held the pool, but 
it was of no use to them, for how could they fish without 
anybody to sacrifice for them ? What they did was to 
induce Nalunkwamba to come to live at Mala, or, as others 
say, he came of his own accord to live there. " What ! 
make friends with those who killed his relations ? " " Yes, 
sir," they reply, " Baila haina inkoto " {" Ba-ila do not 
keep up resentment "). And since then Nalunkwamba has 
been the presiding priest of the Muvhumenzhi fishing. 
Once a year, in the month of October, there is a great gather- 
ing at the pool. Nalunkwamba fixes the day and summons 
the people. He has brewed beer, and in the morning of 
the day, when all are assembled, he goes to the sacred spot 
— an ant-hill and a tree standing together — and there offers 
a potful of beer to his ancestors, and asks their assistance. 
He then with his fish-spears enters the pool, and casts his 
spears in different directions as if to impale the fish. This 
inauguration of the fishing concluded, the waiting crowd 
sets up the deep full-chested cry, " Woh ! " and rushes 
pell-mell into the water. 

There is said to be a mupuka living in this pool. We 
are told that there are numerous snakes in the water ; 
but this mupuka is a fabulous creature ; it may be, and 
probably is, regarded as the embodiment of one of Nalu- 
nkwamba's ancestors. Anyhow it is held in great awe, and 
before the inauguration takes place nobody in his senses 
would venture to fish in the pool. 

At Nanzela the " spiritual ownership " of the fishing in 
the river is held by a leper woman named Lukalo. Many 
years ago her people lived there, but died out mostly, and 
she went to live elsewhere. After the Mission was founded 
on the site she got permission to settle there. Though the 
land has passed to the Mission, nobody ever dreams of 
asking the missionary for permission to fish : they go to the 
leper woman and she offers a sacrifice to her ancestors 
for them. 


2. Inheritance 

The subject of inheritance is an intricate and difficult 
one. While governed mainly by certain broad rules their 
application is determined to far too great an extent by 
the status and natural combativeness and tenacity of the 
legatees. Cases are not infrequent where feelings have 
grown so heated that an orderly apportionment of the 
inheritance has been quite suspended and a general scramble 
has taken place for the cattle and movables of the deceased. 
This was so in the case of an influential Mala headman, 
Shambweka : the young men lost all control of themselves 
and attempted to drive off as many of the cattle as they 
could by force. 

To obviate any dispute, men frequently select heirs and 
apportion their goods previous to their death. This is 
termed kuvhuhula, and the goods received are called ivhubo. 

The usual procedure apart from kuvhubula has already 
been described by us in connection with the succession to 
the chieftainship ; and here it is to be noted that every 
freeman who dies has somebody who " eats his name," 
becomes the heir, the only essential difference being that 
in the case of inferiors the name and inheritance may be 
taken by a woman. This for obvious reasons is extremely 
rare in the case of a headman, and unknown in the case 
of a chief, differing entirely from the practice prevailing 
amongst the Barotsi and other people to the west, where 
supreme power over a portion of the tribe is frequently 
exercised effectively by a woman. 

As all land is held communally this question is not 
affected by the death of any person. What passes as 
inheritance are cattle, wives, slaves, and personal belong- 
ings, such as tools, spears, medicines, etc. To be allotted 
a portion of a deceased's estate is kukona ; and the portion 
is called lukono. 

In the case of the wives of the deceased, the patriarchal 
practice is followed, and a kinsman takes them to raise 
up seed to his brother. Considerable injustice is sometimes 
the result of the variations, and more particularly the 
additions made to this rule, as where a couple happily 


married are wilfully separated in order that the wife may 
" eat," or inherit, a dead woman's name. 

When a man's wife dies, he, after the funeral, forwards 
to his parents-in-law a present known as chishonsho, and 
intimates that, as their child has been taken by death, he 
looks to them to supply the vacant place. He will often 
state his wishes at the same time, saying he prefers an 
elderly woman, or a child, and the parents-in-law strive to 
meet his wishes and long palavers are held amongst the 
family over the matter. A sister is sought for first, and 
should one be alive, although married and with children 
she is attached to, no compunction is felt at ruthlessly 
severing those ties and installing her in the dead woman's 
place. Should it be impossible to find an heiress the chiko 
is returned. Should she be forthcoming the husband pays 
fresh chiko, of lesser amount than for his first wife. The 
heiress may be a girl in her mother's arms, and before reach- 
ing maturity may die, in which case a fresh heiress has to 
be found. The confusion resulting can with difficulty be 
realised, and the Ba-ila women frequentty suffer under the 
laws of inheritance. A woman mourning a dead husband, 
or a girl living happily with a live one, may be forced at any 
time into a union utterly uncongenial. Pondering on a 
girl's upbringing in the public kraal, and the way she is 
liable to be bandied about in marriage, one wonders to find 
the genuine attachments that exist. Owing to the custom 
of sending children to be brought up by a relative, for a 
period, long or short, the abuses of the law of inheritance 
do not press so hardly upon the children ; and though the 
ostensible reason of the practice is to prevent the children 
suffering through jealousy, or partiality, on the father's 
part, one cannot avoid the thought that the liability of the 
mother to be called upon at any time to live with a fresh 
husband had much to do with the institution of the custom. 

The widows of the deceased are taken, as we have said, 
by his heir. Or if there are many he may take three, the 
deceased's nephew one, and a son one. In the latter case, 
of course, he would not inherit his own mother. The 
deceased's mother's people have the right to one of the 


Slaves pass, in the first instance, with the hut to which 
they are attached or belong, that is to say they follow their 
mistress, and then exactly like the cattle are distributed 
by the heir. The heir may take five, a son one, a nephew one, 
a younger brother one, and the mother's people one. The 
same with regard to cattle. Most of them are taken by the 
heir, then the deceased's nephews, children, and younger 
brothers. A doctor, if the deceased has had " medicine" 
from him, puts in a claim for a cow and calf. If not given 
things, the doctor will seize a child or nephew as slave, and 
they will have to be redeemed. 

On the death of a big chief, a present of a woman slave 
as a mark of added respect frequently accompanies the 
cattle with the mourning party from another chief, a 
different slave being sent in return. On the death of the 
chief who sent the slave, the two individuals are returned, 
regardless of any ties they may have formed or children 
they may have borne, to their former homes, each accom- 
panied by a fresh slave. An arrangement of this nature 
is handed down from father to son for generations. Occa- 
sionally it is stipulated that any children the women have 
had shall accompany them, but more frequently not. 

It is a principle recognised in all inheritance that luhono 
talumana ("goods have no end"). That is to say, if A 
dies and B takes things as lukono, when B dies A's sons 
have the right to kona some of B's goods. And not only 
so ; but if B inherited a cow from A's estate, A's sons have 
the right to a cow from B's estate — a cow and no more, 
always provided that they take to B's funeral an animal 
equal to that which B took to A's. 

3. Offences against Property 

These come under the heading of huditazhi. It would 
be a mistake to measure their indignation against infractions 
of the property laws by any valuation of our own of the 
worth of the goods. To us the anger evoked, and the 
penalties imposed, are sometimes, perhaps generally, out 
of all proportion to the trumpery value of the goods. But 
we have to remember that what seems trivial to us is in 



their eyes very precious. And it is not so much the value 
of the thing that a Mwila looks at as the fact that it is his, 
and nobody has the right to interfere with it or damage it, 

(i) Theft, robbery, etc., are termed hutett, a thief is 
milieu, and to steal is kwiha. Not all appropriations come 
under this head, for, as we have seen, some of them are 
kimanga. It is a principle of Bwila law that you cannot 
ditaya a clansman ; that is to say, in this connection, if 
you take his things it is not theft. And what is called 
biiteii depends to some extent for its heinousness upon the 
kind of property stolen, who steals it, from whom, and the 
time. Theft of cattle is a great crime ; so is theft of grain 
from a field or a bin : death was sometimes the penalty. 
For a slave to steal from his master, or from his master's 
relations, is not regarded as heinous : being a slave he 
cannot ditaya his master or his master's clansmen. Burglary 
is a more serious thing than ordinary theft. To njila 
chimpotela, i.e. to remove a door and enter a house at night, 
unbidden and without warning, is a great crime in itself. 
If the trespasser steals anything or assaults a woman the 
crime is greater, should he assault a sleeping woman it 
would be still greater, and were the sleeping woman a 
nursing mother that would be the summit of wickedness. 
Such is the crescendo of crime. 

There is much theft among themselves ; and a. stranger 
is considered fair game, unless he has put his goods in 
charge of the chief. We remember one Sunday when all 
the Kasenga headmen had gathered to pay the tax and 
came first to attend the service at the Mission. One of the 
chiefs had, in a little bag, the cash for all his men's tax, 
amounting to some fifteen pounds. At the conclusion of 
the service he rose to leave and momentarily forgot his 
little bag. The next minute he remembered, but in the 
interval it had disappeared for ever. We shall give cases 
in the next chapter showing how people are enslaved for 
much less than this. 

(2) To lose a thing entrusted to you is another crime, 
and the penalty is often very severe. We knew of a man 
who bought a pumpkin for a small piece of tobacco and 
when it got lost exacted three cows and an impande shell 


as the ransom of the person in fault. Another case we 
knew of was this : A man and his younger brother went to 
a funeral and one of the villagers named Kalumpa accused 
the younger visitor of having lost a needle belonging to 
him ; he claimed damages against the elder brother, who, 
though denying all knowledge of the loss, had to pay Katumpa 
a shell. Then Katumpa's son committed adultery with a 
wife of a chief, who claimed and got a cow from Katumpa ; 
he also demanded an ox, but as Katumpa had not one, he 
referred the chief to the elder of the two brothers, whose 
fault was not considered to have been expiated, and the 
chief mulcted him in a cow and an ox. So that through 
the loss of a needle alleged against a boy his brother suffered 
to the extent of a shell, a cow, and an ox ! 

(3) To damage any one's property is also a crime. 

A man visiting at another village was charged by a 
savage cow, and to defend himself snatched up a stool and 
struck the beast. He had the ill-luck to break the stool 
and the owner at once seized and tied him up, demanding 
a cow as ransom. The man asked indignantly how the 
breaking of a stool could justify a claim for a cow, and 
compromised for a young ox. 

A little boy tore a man's cloth accidentally as they 
were eating together, and the man proceeded to take him 
away as a slave. The chief of the village supported the 
father when the case was brought before him, and ordered 
the man to restore the boy. Then the father demanded a 
cow because his son had been wrongfully accused. 

A man committed adultery with a woman and gave 
her a shell. Shortly afterwards he accused her of breaking 
a beer spoon, a lukoma, and took a cow and shell as 

A man and a boy were once going on a journey and 
spent a night in a village on the way. The man had an 
accident in the bed that night and was much disgusted. 
By this he had committed huditazhi against the owner of 
the hut, who threatened to enslave him unless he were paid 
damages. The man paid. He attributed the accident to 
the boy having put medicine into his pipe, and years after- 
wards brought a claim for a cow against the boy's father, 



because the boy had caused him to ditaya. The boy was 
dead when the claim was made. 

(4) If the damage is committed by a dog or beast the 
owner is held responsible. In one case we knew a man 
claimed two cows and an ox because another's dog had 
spoilt a skin belonging to him ; the accused promptly claimed 
two cows and an ox for wrongful accusation. 

(5) If a man digs a game pit and any one's cattle fall 
into it, he will be held responsible for the damage. 

(6) To take, or eat of, an animal killed by another is 
of course a crime. It is also reckoned hiiditazhi for any one 
to pass at the back of an elephant killed by a hunter, or 
to make remarks about, or laugh at, the appearance of its 

(7) Special cases of huditazhi relate to a person's misamo. 
For any one to steal, or damage, a medicine or a medicine 
receptacle, or to smoke a pipe in which another person has 
a drug, are all heinous crimes. A young girl staying in a 
village away from home went out in the night to relieve 
herself, and had the misfortune to befoul somebody's 
medicine. Next morning, seeing what had happened, the 
owner seized her as his slave, and demanded an ox for her 
ransom. The father having no ox offered two hoes, but 
the owner refused to accept them. 

(8) If you get insamhwe medicine from a doctor, you 
give him a spear, and he repeats the dose at intervals 
without further payment. If you go out trading, and as 
the result of the insamhwe you make a good profit, you 
should give the doctor a share, but this is not compulsory. 
If on this trip you have the misfortune to die, you commit 
huditazhi, because you have robbed the doctor of what he 
might have been given by you. He can claim to take two 
of your cattle at the partition of your property, or in default 
one of your relations as his slave. On the other hand, if 
the doctor dies while you are still under treatment, you 
can claim damages from his estate : he has ditaya'di you. 
The same applies to the medicine called womhidi. 

To illustrate various points we give the following notes 
of cases tried in the Magistrates' Courts : 

I. This case had been going on for five years. Shimunza 


had a claim against another man, and handed it to his 
friend Mooba to obtain a settlement. Mooba succeeded in 
getting a cow, and, as a reward, was offered successively 
three strings of beads, an impande shell, a larger shell, and 
an ox, all of which he refused as inadequate. Not getting 
what he wanted he retained the cow, which in the meantime 
had borne three calves. When Shimunza brought the case 
to get his cow and the increase, Mooba alleged that Shimunza 
had tuka'd him. They were advised, Mooba to give up the 
cow and calves to Shimunza, and Shimunza to pay Mooba 
an ox in recompense. 

2. Fifteen years before, the Batwa had caught a cow 
belonging to Nabwantu, and he sent Shintu to claim from 
them. He succeeded in getting a cow, an impande shell, 
and some beads ; Nabwantu was dissatisfied with this, so 
Shintu returned to the Batwa and secured another cow and 
a calf. As a recompense, Shintu claimed one of the cows, 
but Nabwantu offered him only a bull-calf, and then an" 
ox, which he considered sufficient, but Shintu did not. 
Shintu was awarded a heifer calf. 

3. Two men, named Shachibinzha and Shikanda, went 
to the Batwa to sell canoes. Shikanda was successful in 
selling his for an ox, and gave Shachibinzha a lump of 
tobacco for his assistance. They returned home and set 
to work to make other canoes, and as Shachibinzha's was 
finished first they left Shikanda's for a later trip, and went 
off with the one. They sold Shachibinzha's canoe for an 
ox. They then went off to collect debts elsewhere ; Shachi- 
binzha was successful in getting two cows and an ox, but 
Shikanda was not able to get anything. He then claimed 
a cow from Shachibinzha for the help he had given him. 
Persisting in his claim, he was promised an unborn calf, 
but when it was born Shachibinzha paid it away, and 
Shikanda, being angry, seized his companion's cow. 

4. Two men travelling were attacked by a lion. When 
the first. Shako, was in the lion's grip, the other, Nabotu, 
went to his assistance and the lion seized him, leaving Shako 
who got away. Nabotu was rescued, and his people claimed 
and got a cow from Shako's people because Nabotu had 
got his injuries while assisting Shako. When, later, Nabotu 


recovered, Shako's people claimed for the restitution of 
the cow. 

5. When Kasako's wife died he claimed a substitute 
from her people, who refused both to provide one and to 
give back the chiko. Tlie deceased woman's brother, who 
was now dead, had received four cows as part of the chiko, 
and so Kasako claimed for them on the heirs. Not being 
satisiied with the offer of one cow, he brought the case to 

6. These three cases arose out of the distribution of the 
property of one chief. He had a daughter, Posha, to whom 
he had given an as yet unborn child ; later, when it was 
weaned, she took it to her husband's home. When her 
father died she brought an ox to the funeral, but it was 
refused : and the heirs seized the child her father had given 
her. This was a great insult and injury, and the woman 
made a claim for the ten cows that had been given as chiko 
for her. During the same chief's life, a certain man named 
Kabo fell in love with one of his wives and committed 
adultery with her ; he brought a cow to the funeral and 
would have no lukono but the wife. The people tried to 
dissuade him from taking her at once : " The tears are not 
yet dry," they said; " when the woman has completed her 
mourning you can have her," but he persisted. Later, the 
heir claimed for her restitution. One of the same chief's 
wives was allotted to Shazuba, but as she had a violent 
dislike for him she was handed to Mukale, one of the de- 
ceased chief's sons. Shazuba then brought a claim for her 
and succeeded. 



Slavery, as far as we can trace, has always been an 
institution among the Ba-ila, and still exists though it 
is not recognised by the British authorities. We find it 
impossible to compute the numbers of slaves still held, 
but there must be thousands. We have no desire to 
exaggerate the evils associated with this institution ; we 
know that a great many slaves are treated kindly, but there 
is nothing which gives one such an insight into the ruthless 
nature of savage society as a study of slavery. The manner 
in which men and women are enslaved, very often through 
no fault of their own, the way in which mothers and children, 
husbands and wives, are torn apart, the cold-blooded way 
in which they are often, nay, mostly, treated as on a level 
with the cattle — nay, on a lower level — all this makes up an 
unhappy picture. 

I. How People become Slaves 

There are two chief ways in which people may be 
enslaved : 

First, by purchase from slave-traders or from others ; 
and, second, on account of faults committed either by 
themselves or by others. 

We have seen in an earlier chapter that in " ancient " 
times Arab and Mambari slavers carried on a vigorous 
traffic in this country, both buying and selling slaves. 
In those lawless days, also, many prisoners were taken 
during the intertribal wars, and these were largely detained 



as slaves. These sources of supply have now been cut off 
by the advent of the Pax Britannica, but the surviving 
slaves and their children are still held as slaves. 

In addition to this, slaves have been, and we believe 
still are, on the quiet, traded among themselves. This 
means in many cases simply a transference from one master 
to another, but often a freeman, or freewoman, or the child 
of such, is seized by a strong man and sold. People were 
often waylaid on their way to the forest, or to water, and 
hurried away to a distant village and sold. This might 
mean trouble if it were discovered by the captive's kinsmen, 
but a man of strength and wealth could easily get out of 
the difficulty. 

In those days a man wishing to buy slaves would equip 
himself with merchandise, such as hoes, and go through 
the country seeking somebody to trade with. He would 
be asked what sort of a slave he wanted : boy, or girl, or 
adult. The price commonly paid for a boy was five hoes, 
with perhaps a sixth called the iamha dia musako (" the 
hoe of the walking-stick ") given to clinch the bargain ; 
a girl would fetch more, perhaps ten or twelve hoes ; we 
have known an adult woman to be sold for ten baskets of 
salt, five bunches of beads, and a hoe. During the bargain- 
ing the unsuspecting boy (or girl) would be called, ostensibly 
to bring the visitors some water or embers for their pipes, 
but really to be examined to see that he was healthy and 
fit. The boy (or girl) would not be told that he was 
purchased, but was deceived by being told that he would 
accompany the visitors and return presently. So without 
farewell to mother or father the child was taken off into 
slavery. It often happened that when an adult had thus 
been purchased, on the return journey while the party was 
resting in a village, the slave would throw ash upon the 
chief, or other person, in the desperate hope of finding a 
kinder master ; and then if the master wanted his slave 
very much he had to redeem him, so that within a few days 
he would have paid twice over for the same slave : other- 
wise, he lost both slave and purchase money. 

We may give some instances that have come under our 
notice of this traffic in human flesh. 



A man named Shialozhi brought a case against another 
for calHng Mm by a dead man's name, and was paid a man. 
Some time afterwards he bought grain from Munampelo 
and offered this man in payment. The man was at a 
distant village, and as Shialozhi refused to accompany him, 
Munampelo had to go alone to fetch him. The man refused 
to go ; and eventually Shialozhi paid Munampelo a girl — 
his daughter. 

Shimunza bought a girl named Kabocha for salt ; some 
time afterwards one of Shimunza's young men committed 
adultery with the wife of a neighbouring chief, and Shimunza 
had to pay Kabocha to the chief as a fine on his behalf ; 
as compensation he then seized the sister of the young 
man. The case came to our knowledge through Kabocha 
asking us to secure her release : she was tired, she said, 
of being a slave. 

At Chinenga some people caught Mwanambo and sold 
her to Shapela for goods. Fifteen years later her brother 
turned up to redeem her from Shapela, and he demanded 
five cows as ransom. 

A certain man named Mwezwa bought a woman, Kacha, 
for a cow, a calf, and a bull ; some time afterwards she ran 
away home and her son sent her back to her master. Later 
on she ran off again ; and this time she was away a whole 
year and died. Mwezwa died and his son accused the 
woman's son of having caused her death, and got a cow out 
of him. The Batwa, in whose village the woman died, 
claimed heavily from Mwezwa's son for having buried his 
slave for him. 

Some people enslave themselves. Should, for example, 
a person get into trouble and have not wherewithal to pay 
the fines inflicted on him, it is open to him to go to some 
wealthy man and say : "I have come to offer myself 
{kuditula), for I have a fault against So-and-so, and I 
want you to release me." If the man agrees, he pays the 
fine and the other becomes his slave until such time as he 
himself, or his kinsmen on his behalf, pay what the man 
demands as ransom. What that may be depends on the 
man's character, but generally the proverb is recalled in 
such cases : Kombekache kazhala adi ikumi ("A tiny calf 



will one day give birth to ten ! ") which means that heavy 
usury is to be claimed for any consideration you have given. 

There is another way in which a man may get into slaver}^ 
— this time without really intending it. He gets tired of 
his own village and goes off to another, telling the chief 
that with his permission he has come to stay and work 
for him a time. His friends seek to get him back, but he 
disowns them and stays on. He gets familiar with the 
chief's wives and even becomes ver}^ intimate with them, 
but when they report it to their husband he takes no notice : 
he bides his time. Some visitors come, and among them 
wives of a neighbouring chief, and the man gets into trouble 
on their account. He is fined, and as he has nothing to 
pay with and he has disowned his relations, his friend the 
chief pays for him. The thing happens again and a claim 
is made on the chief on behalf of the man ; he does not 
deny his responsibility and tell them to go to the man's 
relations ; he pays, and then turns to the man and says : 
" Nobod}^ asked you to come here : you came of your own 
accord ; you came like a blind man who doesn't see where 
he is going. Now you are my slave." And slave he remains. 

Sometimes a person will enslave himself or herself 
because of utter destitution and lack of friends. This 
happened as an incident in the life of a much enslaved 
woman named Nanshiku. She was captured while still 
youthful one day when she was fishing. The news of her 
captivity reached Mompizho, one of her relations, who 
went off and redeemed her by giving up a slave : he then, 
in a very cruel fashion, claimed Nanshiku as his own. 
Her brother paid him seven stretches of calico, a blanket, 
and two strings of beads, and brought Nanshiku to his 
village. There she remained and was married. One by 
one she lost all her children, then her brother, and then her 
husband. Knowing of no other relations, and being left 
alone, she enslaved herself to another man. Years passed 
away and then a relation of hers turned up, paid her master 
five blankets, four stretches of calico, and twenty-five 
shilUngs, thereby releasing her, and took her to his own 

A very common source of slavery is the code of customary 

VOL. I 2D 


laws summed up in the word huditazhi, the very essence of 
which, as we have seen, is that the person breaking the law 
is ipso facto a slave and must be redeemed. 

Here are some ways in which the thing happens. 

A woman, for some reason, took a bell off a dog's neck 
and threw it away into the bush. The owner seized her as 
his slave and sold her to another man, who in turn gave her 
to his sister. 

A woman visiting a friend was told by her to take what 
food she wanted from the field. She helped herself to a 
single maize-cob, but it was the wrong side of the boundary, 
and the owner seized her as his slave. Later on, when the 
Mambari came he sold her to them ; as they were in another 
village a man heard of the way she had been treated and 
persuaded her to throw ash on him, and thus escape from 
the Mambari. She did so, and he told the Mambari, who 
in vain tried to redeem her. The man's name was Salanga ; 
he died, and the woman fearing what might happen ran 
away to Mono. Salanga's heir had to pay three pieces of 
calico and a blanket to get her away from Mono. 

In a year of severe famine, when the only food to eat 
was wild fruit, a man named Kale was in the forest when 
he was told that a certain woman had been caught stealing 
young mealies out of his field. She was a distant relative, 
and therefore he did not wish, he said, to be vindictive, but 
took the woman and two of her children as his slaves. The 
relations paid Kale a fine and he later on released the woman 
and one of the daughters. The other daughter he married 
himself and she bore him three children. The relatives 
offered him heavy compensation, but he always refused to 
release her, so she appealed to the magistrate, saying : 
" People always call me a slave, I wish to be free." 

Two women and a child, a girl, were passing through a 
village and plucked a few tobacco leaves from a plant outside 
one of the huts. The owner heard of this and followed them 
up. He found them stamping the leaves, and seized one 
of the women and the girl as slaves. He released the mother, 
but kept the girl and afterwards sold her for ten hoes and 
ten bags of salt. She was unmarried then, but with child. 
She ran away, and her people refused to give her up as she 


had been enslaved on such a trivial protest, but they had to 
pay the man a cow to release her. 

Not stealing only, but more or less trivial, often unin- 
tentional, acts of damage to property, are thought sufficient 
to doom a person to loss of liberty. 

Should a person make a mistake in a bed — not belonging 
to a relation but to some one else— where he is sleeping, he 
would be enslaved. To spit on a man, to foul him accidentally 
when blowing one's nose, or to micturate upon him — for any 
of these a person may be made a slave for life. To knock 
out a tooth, in play or in fighting, is a very great crime, 
which can only be expiated by a man surrendering his head 
— which does not mean capital punishment, but slavery. 

We have mentioned the way in which sometimes a man 
takes possession of a woman without the permission of her 
people. It is called hudinjidizhi ("self-entry"). Suppose 
a man comes across an unmarried woman and proposes to 
live with her without the usual formalities of kusesa and 
kukwa — asking for her hand and paying chiko. She may 
agree : he lives with her, eats the food she provides, but 
gives her nothing and gives her people nothing. It goes on 
like that for a time, and the man gets tired of her and 
proposes to leave her. Then she speaks up : " No, you 
don't ! You simply entered my house, and now you want 
to go ! No ! You are my slave : stay where you are." 
The man becomes slave to the woman and her relations. 
He has committed a crime against the huditazhi code. 

Should a woman who has aborted, and before she is 
cleansed from her impurity, enter a person's house or eat 
out of a person's dish who is not a relation, she ipso facto 
becomes that person's slave ; or if more than one person 
has been offended they sell her, and divide the proceeds. 
She has rendered them liable to contract that horrible 
disease, kafungo. 

Again, should a woman break the receptacle {insamhilo) 
containing the medicine of a man or woman, she will be 
enslaved unless there is somebody at her back — kumuzhima 
kunuma is the phrase — to redeem her. 

To burn down a village, or any part of it, is naturally 
a great crime, even if committed accidentally through a 


hut catching fire while a person is cooking in it. If the 
person be a woman married from elsewhere to one of the 
villagers, she will be enslaved. It is reckoned as equal to 
murder — it is Iwemhe, and unless the full amount of the 
fine is forthcoming from her kinsmen, she will certainly be 
kept as a slave. It is a warning always given to any one 
who goes to live in another's village, Kukadisosola ku bantu 
ku shintu shonse ; watachita hoho ulazhimina (" Pay strict 
regard to people and to their things not to damage them, 
if you don't, you are lost "). 

Kuidimuna mukaheni — to run off with another's wife, 
may result in the enslavement of the perpetrator, or of his 
mother or sister if he have not a slave to pa}^ in their stead. 

Many slaves are held on account of adultery. A fine is 
usually paid, as we have seen, but the husband has the right, 
if he thinks fit, to enslave the man, or his sister or mother. 
Certainly if the man cannot pay the fine demanded, and has 
nobody to pay for him, he will be enslaved. This of course 
is a practice that is coming to an end under British rule. 

Another reason for men being enslaved is this : Should 
a man invite another to murder his enemy and afterwards 
fail to give him the reward promised, then the man has to 
surrender himself as slave to the other, unless, of course, he 
can gather sufficient to redeem himself. 

Harder cases are those in which perfectly innocent 
people are enslaved, not for their own faults, but because of 
the faults of others. The clan system, according to which 
there is corporate responsibility for the crimes of a member, 
often falls severe^ upon individuals. 

Here is one case that came into court. A man named 
Kabokota came to complain that before he was born the 
brother of a chief, named Kaluya, had married one of his 
(Kabokota's) relatives named Nabwantu. Some time after 
the marriage Nabwantu committed a fault, and her husband 
paid the fine to release her from the slavery into which she 
had been taken on account of the fault. Shortly after, he 
died, and his brother, Kaluya, " ate the name." He said 
that as his brother had paid a fine on the woman's behalf 
he would now take her children as his slaves. Nabwantu's 
relations were angered at this, and Kabokota had brought 


money and calico to release the children. Kaluya gave up 
the two sons, but refused to part with the daughters, and 
so Kabokota brought the case to the magistrate. 

A certain woman had a spite against another, and one 
day, while this woman was in the act of delivering a child, 
she caught hold of her in such a way that, so it was alleged, 
she caused the child's death. The husband charged the 
woman with the crime and her friends had to pay a man. 

A certain man had intercourse with a young woman, 
and becoming diseased with bunono shortl}^ afterwards, 
accused the woman of giving it to him, and enslaved both 
her and her mother. 

Another man lent a man ten shillings wherewith to pay 
his hut tax, and in return was paid a woman. 

A pregnant woman entered a hut in another village in 
which there were twins. This of course was against Ila 
law, and when some time afterwards the children died, the 
woman was held to have caused their death. Her husband 
and brother were made responsible, and friends had to 
subscribe to release them from slavery. The woman herself 
subscribed a cow, the husband an ox and five loaves of 
tobacco, another person a shell, and another a slave, and 
others other things : in all, five head of cattle, two shells, 
six loaves of tobacco, and a slave ! 

A man named Chikumo seized another, Penze, and tied 
him up saying he had a case against some people, and would 
release Penze when he was paid the fines due to him. Penze 
had no conceivable connection with the case, but Chikumo 
expected that in this way he would compel Penze's friends 
to come to his aid to collect the fines due to him. 

The following case was about a matter that had occurred 
before the claimant was born. Kalubu (father of the 
claimant) killed the son of Mukobela, who, as Kalubu 
wouldn't pay, caught a girl belonging to Kalubu, who 
then brought three slaves and three cows to release the girl. 
On the other hand Kazuba, the claimant, said he had paid 
four shells, a cow and two blankets, one hoe, and ten strings 
of beads to release the girl, and Mukobela stuck to them 
and demanded a girl. Kazuba got a girl from his uncle to 
pay him, and he said that on the second night she was at 


Mukobela's place, Mukobela's child died, and Mukobela 
claimed the girl to make up for it. 

Many people are pressed into slavery as compensation 
for the death of others. 

In one case we knew of, a man named Lubesha went to 
Mango's village for a wife. When, later, he took the woman 
away, he asked Mango to give him a young lad, to whom he 
had taken a fancy, to live with him for a time. Mango 
agreed, and Lubesha took the boy, who unfortunately fell 
sick and died a few days later. Mango claimed a slave as 
compensation, but as Lubesha had no slave he gave Mango 
his sister and her two children, Masamo and Lube. Before 
Mango died a relative of the woman named Muswela paid 
for the release of Masamo a slave named Chipila who had 
a child in arms named Kabuka. Mango agreed to this, and 
also promised that when Kabuka had grown up he would 
compensate Muswela for her. At Mango's death. Lube ran 
away, refusing to remain with the inheritor, but later she 
returned and was married by Fofu. Mango before his death 
had sold both Chipila and her child, and for the latter had 
made no payment as promised. Both Fofu and Lubesha 
had offered to ransom Lube, but he had refused. When 
Mango died his nephew succeeded him, and had to settle 
these matters as best he could. 

Maso, a woman, was living among the Batema, and 
Solwe was in the next village. One day Solwe killed a buck 
and Maso's people went over to get some of the meat. 
Shaba, Solwe's uncle, saw and admired Maso, and wished 
to court and marry her. The elders of the village told him 
to get the permission of Maso's relatives. Her uncle, Kabo, 
was willing, but wished him to go with him to another 
village to consult some others. It was agreed that he should 
marry her, and they all made a plan to live some distance 
off. On the road Shaba was carrying five pots of fat and two 
parcels of salt. Presently a honey-guide appeared, and 
Shaba, still carrying his burden, went off the road to get 
the honey. But he did not return — for some reason, indeed, 
he disappeared, and later on was captured and enslaved by 
some of Shagele's people. When Solwe heard that his uncle 
was missing, he went to Kabo and said that Shagele's people 



had killed Shaba, and Kabo was to blame as Shaba had 
accompanied him and had married his niece. Solwe there- 
fore claimed Maso as his slave. Kabo refused to give her up, 
saying they were not to blame for Shabo's disappearance. 
Solwe insisted, and eventually Kabo paid him ten hoes, 
three shells, a bunch of beads, and four stretches of calico. 
Then Shaba turned up, but Solwe refused to give back the 

Manga inherited the name of Makoso. The child of 
Shitwe, one of the headmen, fell sick and died, and Shitwe 
said it was a sign that the ghosts were angry at Manga's in- 
heriting, and claimed compensation for the death of the child. 
As Manga had nothing to pay with, Shitwe seized Manga's 
niece, Lubota, and also a shell. Manga was angry and went 
to Lufuka to borrow some goods wherewith to redeem his 
niece. He left his wife and son, Shilo, at the village. While 
he was away, another of Shitwe's children died ; whereupon 
he seized Shilo and gave him to a certain woman, telling 
her to pray to the ghost of the deceased, i.e. Makoso, to 
leave off troubling his children. 

Sometimes a case like this happens : 

A man has a debt owing him which he has had great 
difficulty in recovering. He has a friend of forcible character 
and induces him, by a promise of a substantial share of the 
debt, to undertake its collection. He goes and so bullies 
the debtor that he gets the debt— perhaps a slave. On his 
return his friend finds he cannot fulfil his promise to give 
a reward. Then the man has two courses open to him. 
He either takes the slave he got for his friend, or he simply 
bides his time. In the latter event, on the death of his 
friend he puts in his claim to part of the inheritance. H 
he is mercifully inclined, he will be content with a slave 
equal in value to the one he secured for his friend, or if 
harsher, he chooses a son or daughter of the deceased, and 
will not be content till he has got what he wants. 

It is things like this that induce men, who wish for the 
prosperity of their children, to settle their own debts before 
they die. 


2. Character of the Slavery 

Perhaps the most pitiful thing to be seen in Bwila — 
where so many pitiful things meet the eye — is the old 
female slaves turning out to work in the fields on a cold, 
wet morning. Their skin is rough and dirty and hangs about 
their bones in ugly wrinkles ; their only clothing is a scanty 
ragged skin around their loins ; some of them have hair 
grey, almost white ; they go shivering with cold, taking in 
one hand a hoe and in the other a fragment of sherd with a 
few hve coals in it. They are on their way to work. Poor 
souls — life for them is only work : nobody cares whether 
they live or die, except the master, and he only because 
they are his property. They are everybody's butt. You 
can see as they shrink past you, with frightened glance, that 
a kind word or look seldom or never comes their way ; and 
if you bid them good-morning they drop on their haunches 
and clap their gnarled old hands, while a faint smile chases 
across their wrinkled faces. 

One of these old women we found lying one morning 
outside our gate. How old she was we could not say — she 
might have been a hundred and fifty to judge by her wizened 
appearance. She could hardly totter. All night she had 
lain out in the veld. The day before she had been turned 
out of the village by the master because she no longer had 
strength to work, and she had crept to us for food and 

That is one side of the picture, but we should not like 
to say that is every slave's fate. Many of them live fairly 
happy lives, but however kind their masters are, the fact 
remains, they are slaves ; they cannot call their souls and 
bodies their own, and if they bear children they mostly 
have no right to them, and they have no title to resent the 
word slave {muzhike) flung at them. From the numerous 
cases we have met, we should say that the fact of being a 
slave, and being addressed as such, is keenly felt by the 
majority of them. 

Now, what rights have they as slaves ? 

As regards marriage. A female slave may be sought in 
marriage by a freeman not from her parents or guardians. 




but from her owner. He demands some chiko. The mar- 
riage takes place, but she does not cease to be a slave. 
Every child she bears is a slave equally with herself, and 

P/wlo E. 11: Smith. 

Ax Old Slave Woman. 

the owner may at any time take and sell them as he wishes. 
She will hoe her husband's fields, but has her owner's to 
do as well, and at any time may be summoned to leave her 
own in favour of his. The owner, too, has rights over her 
body— it is not hers, nor her husband's, biit his. 


A male slave will be given a wife by the owner, one of 
his female slaves, and the same conditions prevail, aggravated 
in this case by the fact that at any moment, without warning, 
his wife may be taken from him, given to another, or sold, 

A slave woman who finds favour in her master's eyes 
may be in a better position. If he marries her, her children 
will be free. It may be that if he has no children -by other 
wives, her children will not only be free but take an honour- 
able position, and one of them may " eat " his father's name. 

An unmarried slave-woman is named nahutema {Butema 
means slavery, says Mungaila ; the word is also applied 
to the condition of any unmarried person). Her owner 
may sleep with her, but it is regarded by the married women 
as an indignity offered to them, and if a woman finds her 
husband doing it he will have to pay, or she will go home. 
They are practically prostitutes. The young men of the 
owner do much as they like with them, without getting into 
trouble ; if a man of another kraal wants one of them he 
can just give her a chipo (a present). If he doesn't give 
her chipo, she will get one of the young men to squeeze 
him, and will perhaps share the proceeds. These women 
are often lent by the chiefs ; we found one in our compound 
who had been lent to three young men. Such a person can 
give her something or not, as he pleases. The chipo may 
be her own — there is no rule, seemingly ; but the owner can 
take them if he wish. He can do anything he pleases. Who 
is to say ? If any one wishes to marry her she may be 
allowed by the chief ; he has to give chiko — not so much as 
for a freewoman ; and the children are the owner's. 

As for the right of protection of life and limb, a master 
will in his own interests, if from no more humane motive, 
see that his slaves are not ill-treated by other people. 
Anybody beating them will have him to reckon with. The 
slaves of a strong man enjoy therefore considerable im- 
munity, but at the same time they are absolutely in his 
hands. If he chose to beat, or even to kill, under the 
old regime nobody had the right to interfere. If it were a 
person held by him for a debt, his relations might be inclined 
to resent any ill-treatment, and especially a mortal violence, 
but he always had the answer ready, " He was my slave ! 


You might have redeemed him and didn't." In case of a 
death, the owner would kill the luloa — one or two cattle, 
eaten by the people of the village to allay the wrath of the 
demigod, but that would be the end. 

A slave might hold property, but he could never call it 
his own. As a matter of fact, most slaves neither own any- 
thing nor have an opportunity of owning anything. But 
some do. They may gain by trading or hunting, and their 
masters encourage them in this, knowing well that they can 
at any time avail themselves of the property thus gained. 
As the Ba-ila say, whatever a slave holds it shares in its 
owner's slavery [nduzhike nina). We are told that there 
are slaves who have more than their masters, but still it is 
not really theirs. 

A slave cannot redeem himself, so as to be free. But 
the Ba-ila speak of a slave redeeming himself when they 
mean that by industry and zeal in his master's service a 
man may raise himself to a position of trust and influence, 
so that he may have the name mwenzhina shimatwangakwe 
("his lord's friend"). 

If a man were zealous, he would do all he could to 
increase his master's wealth. A slave might be sent to 
trade, and would do his utmost to gain slaves for his master. 
As these increased, he would be regarded by them as their 
chief, and so would enjoy the dignity of being able to say 
to one servant, do this ; and to another, do that. 

The slavery among the Ba-ila is thus seen to be, in 
essentials, real slavery and not mere serfdom. It has its 
mitigations. A person held for crimes committed has the 
hope that somebody may turn up to redeem him. And any 
slave, ill-treated beyond endurance, can always transfer 
himself to another and more kindly owner by throwing 
ash upon him. This process reminds us of that of notae 
datio, as existing in Mahommedan countries. 

But when all is said and done, a slave is a slave, and his 
lot is not an enviable one. 

On July 16, 1906, a proclamation was issued by Lewanika, 
the paramount chief, declaring that all slaves held by him 
and his people were thereby free. He expressed his desire 
that this would cause an end of slavery in his dominions. 


and especially that trading in men, the exchange of men, 
and the separation of families, man and wife, parent and 
child, would be no more. The chiefs and headmen were to 
continue to have the power of calling up their people to do 
certain works en corvee, for twelve days a year ; if kept 
beyond that time, they were to be paid for their services. 
Under this law, no persons held in slavery hitherto could 
leave their old master's village to live elsewhere, except with 
the master's permission ; but they might leave without that 
if, on being married, he or she should choose to live in the 
other's village ; or if they were ill-treated ; or if the master 
refused permission to marry ; or if the slave was a foreigner, 
and his people lived in some other portion of Lewanika's 
kingdom. A person in such a state had the right to return 
home if his people paid, or if he paid for himself, two pounds. 
This law was taken to extend to the Bwila, as forming 
part of Lewanika's reputed possessions. And it has been 
understood that there is no such thing as slavery recognised, 
and that any slave on paying two pounds, or having it paid 
on his behalf, is free to go where and do what he pleases. 
A few have been released in this way ; but naturally the 
masters do not like it, and it is doubtful whether the slaves 
understand the matter.^ 

•^ Captain Dale, writing from N. Rhodesia in November 191 7, tells 
me : " The Government has taken up a very strong attitude over domestic 
slavery and refuses to recognise it at all." The men and women were 
assembled in each district and had the matter explained to them. Those 
who wished to claim their freedom were told to step out, and were given 
certificates without any mention of the £2.. "It created a great stir and 
scores claimed their freedom." This is good news and the B.S.A. Co. is 
heartily to be congratulated. E. W. S. 




I. Homicide 

We have already seen that even trivial injuries, such as 
knocking out a tooth or plucking out hair, are regarded 
as serious offences, and might result in the enslavement of 
the offender. The heinousness of an assault depends upon 
the relative status of the men concerned. For a man to 
beat his slave to death is no crime, for a man to spear his 
nephew is no crime, but for a slave or an ordinary freeman 
to assault a chief in even a minor way, as, for example, by 
catching him around the waist, is regarded as a serious 
offence, involving expulsion of the freeman from the 
communit}^ and, as for the slave, death or a heavy fine 
upon his master. 

There are some things which might lead us to suppose 
that the Ba-ila have a high regard for human life. One is 
the extraordinary precautions taken to secure the well- 
being of the unborn child and, in some respects, of the 
sucking child, and the severity with which everything 
that leads to the destruction of the former is punished. 
Another is the infrequency of capital punishment ; it was 
rarely inflicted except in case of witchcraft, for which no 
clemency was ever shown. The proverb we quoted in 
connection with banishment applies to this also, " Any 
old pole will fill a hole in the fence," which is to say : every 
member of a community has his value ; he at least adds to 
the number of the community however worthless he may 
be in himself. To kill a person because he has killed another 



is ridiculous ; why make a bigger hole in the community ? 
Fine him, yes, but unless he is a veritable danger to the 
others, let him live. 

But it is not human life qua life that is held sacred. 
They recognise that apart from war, when of course to 
kill one's opponent is not only legitimate but a virtue, 
there are occasions when killing is no murder. No abstract 
regard for life prevents them, for example, from killing those 
whose continued existence is a menace. 

The killing of a person, per se, is not a crime, but is an 
offence, (i) against his clan ; (2) against the communal 
god ; (3) against the person's ghost, and (4) against the 
hidden forces of nature. That is to say, behind the respect 
for life there is a wholesome fear of the consequences. The 
clan is injured in that it loses a member, and anything that 
injures a member injures the clan. The communal god, 
the guardian of the community, is injured in the killing 
of one of his people : they are regarded as his children, 
and further, as we have heard it put, he is responsible to 
still higher powers, Leza, for their welfare. There is the 
man's own ghost to be reckoned with also, who resents 
being ushered violently into the cold, dreary ghost-world, 
and may retaliate by haunting the slayer. And, moreover, 
there is something uncanny about spilling blood ; it is 
tonda, it is malweza, in certain cases, if not in all ; some- 
thing which sets the mysterious world-forces against you. 
These, it must be conceded, are considerable checks upon 
the man-slaying propensities of the Ba-ila. 

It will be seen that these checks work in no uniform 
manner. They operate cumulatively against killing, e.g. 
one's mother, A stray foreigner, however, has no clansmen 
at hand to avenge his murder ; he is not under the protection 
of the communal god ; his ghost is not at home among 
■.strange ghosts and can easily be driven back to its own 
home ; and there remains only the bad luck that blood- 
shedding brings, and that with the help of friendly doctors 
is without much difficulty averted. Such stray foreigners 
did well to keep out of Bwila in the old days and still need 
to be wary. Even to-day such strangers occasionally dis- 
appear mysteriously, and the Ba-ila stick so closely by 


each other that it is difficult, almost impossible, to discover 
the crime. 

The principle that homicide is an offence against the 
victim's clan has to be read in connection with another, 
that a person cannot ditaya his own clan. One, therefore, 
who slays his mother, or other member of the clan, is not 
called to public account, but does not thereby escape ; 
indeed the penalty is heavier than the payment of twenty 
cows, and is not so easily disposed of. There is something 
about blood, whether it be the smell, or the sight, or the 
associations of it, that gives rise to abhorrence and fear. 
Kill a pig and attempt to drive its mate past the pool of 
blood ; observe the sudden spring aside and alarmed snort 
given by an antelope when it comes near the blood of a 
fellow, and you will see how early this aversion is developed. 
In man this instinct is still strong, until indeed it is civilised 
out of him ! So that to shed blood is uncanny ; it gives 
the mysterious powers a hold on you. Warriors have always 
to be doctored to take away the consequences of their 
having slain, however legitimately, in battle. And whether 
in those or in any other circumstances you kill a person 
you must be careful to cut a short stick, split it partly 
down the middle, stretch the two sides apart, and jump 
through the cleft three or four times in order to avert the 
evil consequences. If you find a man dead in the veld, 
you do not tell lest you be suspected of having killed him, 
but, because the evil consequences may blindly attach 
themselves to you, you are careful to jump through a cleft 
stick as though you had actually killed him. This is apart 
from haunting by the ghost : it is as if the effect of your 
deed fastened itself upon you. And if the person you kill . 
be a blood relation, a clansman, or even one related to you 
closely by marriage, the effect is one you cannot shake off, 
not even by jumping through a cleft stick ; and no medicine 
in the world will rid you of the consequences. 

At Nanzela there was a young man named Kabadi who 
in a quarrel killed one of his father's wives by hitting her 
with a stick. The woman's clansmen had to be paid heavy 
damages, the communal god had to be propitiated, the 
ghost had to be laid, but that was by no means all. The 


man was kuta : that is, the evil consequence, the curse, 
was upon him. Everybody knew that, though nobody 
knew how it would work out in his case. When years 
afterwards Kabadi committed suicide, they recognised how 
the curse had at last taken effect. 

Chikuto (formed from kukuta) is the special kind of 
curse that falls upon a person who sins against close rela- 
tions. It is chikuto, e.g., for a son to see his mother's naked- 
ness, and sometimes a woman who has a disobedient son 
will deliberately remove her garments and expose herself 
before him : he is then kuta — a mukute, he is called, and 
will come to a bad end. So of any one who kills his father, 
mother, maternal uncle, brother, sister, child, the people 
sa}', " Mukute wezo ! Toongola anshi, pe, ulafwa chikuto, 
ulafwa inzanganzanga " (" That cursed one ! He will not 
live long on the earth, no, he will die of chikuto, he will 
die a violent death in the veld"). A lion will take him, or 
he will be drowned, or what he has done will so change 
him that he will go on killing others, will become a warlock, 
and at last be killed by his fellows. 

Senicide and the killing of incurables are followed by 
similar consequences. We cannot say that we have ever 
actually known cases of this sort ; we were hardly likely 
to hear of them ; but we are told that they happen, and 
the Ba-ilahave a word (kusaulula) for the action. We knew 
once a very old man — the oldest man we have met in 
Bwila, very near being a centenarian — whose daughters, 
we were told, said he had lived too long and they would 
kill him. Some time afterwards the old man, who was 
sleeping in a hut alone, rose in the night, stumbled and 
fell into the fire, and died next day of his injuries. So he 
escaped the fate those Gonerils were alleged to have con- 
templated for him. Some old people, tired of their life, 
ask to be killed, or rail and curse everybody they meet 
with the idea of so provoking them that they will lose their 
tempers and knock them on the head. As the Ba-ila say : 
" Balatukana mafwila " (" They curse to give a reason for 
dying"). They are very patient with such old people, and 
have the saying : " Mupami n' akulemanina taingulwa " 
{" An aged person if he angers you is not to be answered "). 


To kill such, or to give a death-stroke to a hopeless invalid, 
is regarded as wrong. Should a sJiikatemamudilo — a lawless 
fellow, or a shinchetela-mozo — a passionate fellow, commit 
the crime he is punished : if a stranger, by having to pay 
the full penalties of homicide, or if a relative and therefore 
incapable of buditazhi, by being left to the chikuto. M'hat 
makes it the more dangerous to cut short the life of old men 
is that in the course of long years they have accumulated 
perhaps many of the misamo we described in Chapter X., 
such as liihahankofii and ngongoki, which produce dis- 
comfort, emaciation, madness, and death in any one who 
seeks to do them harm. 

As we have said, the ghost of a murdered person has 
to be reckoned with. This we shall more conveniently deal 
with in another connection. We also reserve for a later 
section an account of the luloa (blood-offering ; cf. buloa, 
"blood") made to the communal god, and consisting of 
two head of cattle. Here we may speak of the Iwembe, 
the fines paid to the members of the murdered man's 

Quarrels are of frequent occurrence in a village; especially 
when the men are heated by drinking much beer during a 
feast. Free fights take place with sticks and spears. Should 
on any occasion a man kill another, he is liable to be at 
once speared by the other's friends, and it would be accounted 
chadiyana (" vengeance ") and no crime. But generally 
the man's friends intervene and protect him, and the 
matter is brought before the chief. He awards the damages, 
which may be twenty cattle. These constitute the Iwembe. 
The man's clansmen, enga (contribute) these, and they are 
paid over to the murdered man's clan. They must also 
enga the two head as luloa. They get a doctor to physic 
the murderer, to lay the ghost and avert the ill-luck, and 
the case is at an end. 

Before leaving the subject we may make mention of 
the extraordinary fact that there is a part of the Kasenga 
chishi, named Isanti, the inhabitants of which are exempt 
from parang any damages on account of murder. The 
tradition is that the ancient chief Shimunenga, who was 
living at Kane, envied the Banachindwe their fine site at 

VOL. I 2 E 


Mala and planned to dispossess them. He represented to 
them that at Isanti there were great herds of elephant and 
buffalo, and being such splendid hunters he was sure they 
would Hke to go and kill them. The Banachindwe turned 
out to a man for a hunt ; and on their return found 
Shimunenga and his people comfortably settled in their 
viUages at Mala. When they expressed their indignation, 
the chief replied, " You go and hve at Isanti, and as a 
recompense I give you this privilege : you shall be exempt 
from all Iwemhe and luloa ; you may kill, and no blame 
shall attach to you." From that day to this, kilhng is no 
murder at Isanti. 

2. Feticide 

Here is a native account given to us : Should a woman 
become pregnant she is taboo ; she is not to be slept with 
by any man but her husband. Should another sleep with 
her the child will not be ; it will be born the day following. 
But the woman is not dehvered in peace {chitela), but in 
a state of unconsciousness {mu chiu) not knowing what is 
taking place, and the child comes from the womb dead. 
Why ? Because she slept with a man other than the one 
she always sleeps with. Now that also is a case for Iwemhe. 
The man is in fault against the woman's clan who are 
bereft of a child, and also against the husband of the woman. 
They all take it up, saying, " This is a great matter. Why 
is our child killed by this man ? Let him die also ! " But 
the elders who have seen these things before say, " No, 
he is not to die ; let him pay the Iwembe." So he has to 
pay what they decide upon. Sometimes in addition to the 
child being born dead, the mother also dies, and then 
there are two Iwemhe faults. The Iwemhe for the mother 
is paid first, and then that for the child. The greater is 
for the mother's death, and this is not paid, as is the Iwemhe 
for the child, to both the husband and the wife's clan, but 
only to the latter. 

If a pregnant woman is vexed at being in that con- 
dition and desires that the child shall not be, she goes 
to somebody, an old woman maybe, who she is informed 


has an abortifacient [musamo wa kuyazha mafu). The old 
woman asks her, " Do you wish to kill yourself ? " and she 
replies, " I don't care." " Bring me a gift," says the hag, 
and the woman gives her something big, because she knows 
that to procure abortion is the death of a person. Then 
the old woman hands her the medicine with directions how 
to take it at home. Having drunk it, the woman feels 
pains in her abdomen, and whether there be a child formed, 
or not, she aborts. Maybe somebod}^ has observed her 
drinking the medicine and tells the husband. He puts the 
question to her, " Wife, is it true that you got and drank 
medicine, and that is the reason of this effusion? " The 
woman begins to deny it, saying, " No, no, the abortion 
came of itself." Then the person who witnessed her is sent 
for and the wife convicted. She is silent and hangs her 
head in shame. Thereupon the husband and his clansmen 
rise in indignation, and addressing the woman's people say 
fiercel5^ " Pay Iwemhe for killing our child." The others 
have nothing to say, but pay up. And the woman who 
dispensed the medicine is not overlooked ; they are in the 
mess together (literally, Balahila ihia diomwinana , " they 
boil as one pot "), and she will have to pay. Twenty head 
of cattle is the amount paid, and it is divided among the 
man's clansmen. 

3. Infanticide 

This is practised, or was practised, until quite recently, 
in certain definite cases where it was thought that otherwise 
misfortune would overtake the family. These cases were 
as follows : (i) A child who should happen to defaecate in 
being born {waletelela mazhi). (2) A child who should be 
born feet foremost {wazhalwa chimpini). (3) A child who 
should be born with a tooth already cut. (4) A child born 
of a woman who has not yet menstruated ; called mwana 
utaselwa, or mwana wa mfimshi, (" child of the fist "). 
These are destroyed immediately after birth. More cruel 
are the cases when the child does not develop untoward 
symptoms until later. These are : (5) A child that when 
three years old, or so, is unable to walk. It may be born 


strong and healthy, but when the time comes it shows no 
disposition to walk, but simply crawls about. Then if 
there have been any misfortunes in the mother's or father's 
family — and what family is there that goes for three years 
without some misfortune ? — the relations begin to look 
askance upon the child. " Look at it," they say ; " that is 
the one that brings misfortune upon us, wakalweza. Let 
it be thrown away ! It will bring us all to an untimely 
end ! " And they destroy it. (6) A child who cuts the 
first tooth on the upper jaw is also killed. 

Of the last we will give an account in one of our 
informants' own words : " The child, whether boy or girl, 
is born without the slightest defect and goes on growing 
without blemish. It is nursed by the mother and fondled 
by mother and father until the time comes for cutting the 
teeth. They grow of themselves, or because they are rubbed 
with medicine. And perhaps an upper tooth is cut first. 
When the mother notices it she says nothing ; and should 
any one not a relation notice it he says nothing, being afraid 
that he might get into trouble ; the relations would say, 
' Why do you look in the mouth of our child ? Waditaya, 
you have committed huditazhi.' But if a relation of the 
child's mother sees it she at once tells the others, ' So- 
and-so's child has cut its first tooth on top.' When the 
clan members hear this they call the woman, saying, ' Let 
her come and bring her child for us to see.' On her arrival, 
they ask her, ' This child of yours has it not grown well ? ' 
She answers, ' Tchita, who knows ? ' Then they play 
with and tickle the child to make it laugh, so that they 
can see into its mouth. They see the tooth coming out of 
the top gum, and turn upon the mother in anger : ' Why 
have you hidden this thing from us — -this taboo thing ? ' 
Then the husband's and wife's clansmen consult together, 
saying, ' This child is malweza. Let it be thrown away.' 
Nobody dissents, for all know that it is tonda for a child 
to grow the first tooth above. So they throw it away, and 
nobody weeps and nobody complains." 

Nobody, that is to say, but the mother, and she may not 

'give loud expression to her grief in the customary fashion. 

It is tonda. However much she may rebel against the 


custom she must acquiesce. And they do rebel against it. 
We remember a woman who after giving birth overheard 
the old crones discussing how to destroy the child, for it 
had been born with a tooth in the mouth. The mother 
snatched up the child, stole out of the hut, and began to 
run to us for protection. In her weak state she was easily 
overtaken, and the last she heard of it was its pitiful wail 
as it was carried off to destruction. This mother certainly 
rebelled against the tyranny of custom, but in all prob- 
ability had it been another's child and not her own she 
would have insisted with the others upon its being killed. 
Such children bring misfortune, and to the minds of the 
Ba-ila it is better to destroy the one rather than have 
whole families suffer. 

As to the manner of killing them, a woman takes the 
doomed child upon her back in a skin, in the usual way, 
and goes either to the river or to a large ant-bear or other 
hole in the veld. Without stopping, or looking round, she 
slips the fastenings of the skin and allowing the child to 
fall into the water or hole walks straight on. 

A living child born of a woman who dies in the act of 
bearing it, or soon after, is buried with its mother. This 
does not come under the same category as the other cases 
just described, for the motives are different. 

4. Suicide 

This is by no means uncommon among the Ba-ila. 
The methods adopted are usually either by smoking 
mufwehahachazi , a very strong narcotic poison, or hanging, 
or spearing. The reasons often seem trivial enough, but 
bear testimony to their sense of dignity. 

One of the most striking cases we have known was a 
little boy of seven or eight years of age at Chiyadila who 
was reproved by his mother for leaving his baby brother. 
The reproof apparently rankled so that, starting with the 
other youngsters to set their bird-traps, he left them and 
hanged himself by a cord to a little fig tree. 

Women unhappily married very often threaten to com- 
mit suicide, and sometimes carr}^ it out. One of Malukwa's 


wives, at Namwala, was ordered by the magistrate to 
return to her husband. She left the court, ostensibly for 
another reason, and was found lying dead very shortly 
afterwards with a pipe alongside her, having smoked 

The most dramatic we knew was a case at Banamwazi. 
A headman quarrelled with his wife over a basket of meal 
she wanted to give away and he wanted cooked. She went 
off, attempted mufwehahachazi, and finally hanged herself 
in the hut, but was cut down. He, in remorse and not 
knowing that she was recovering, stabbed himself three 
times, aiming at the heart, but getting the breastbone 
each time. They both recovered and lived happily after- 

The attempt sometimes is not serious, as with a man 
we knew of at Lubwe (in February 1907), who pretended 
to stab himself in the thigh, as if to sever an artery ; he 
inflicted only a small wound on himself, and was soundly 
laughed at for his pains. 

A man when passing through a village was accused of 
stealing, and the shame of it so preyed upon his mind that 
he attempted suicide by driving a spear into his abdomen. 
Though the wound was severe it was not fatal, and by 
the assiduous care of the Government officials at Namwala 
he recovered. He then put in a claim for eight head of 
cattle against the people of the village. The magistrate 
expressed his surprise : " Why such a claim ? They didn't 
stab you." " No," was the answer, " but they caused me 
to stab myself." 

In March 1907 a man named Julwi committed suicide 
after murdering a child. His father also then killed 

To get out of trouble, remorse, shame, pique, sorrow — 
are thus all reasons for the act. 

This is what one of our informants says about it : 

" One man kills himself for very little reason, another 
because he has committed a great fault and thinks, ' This 
affair is bad for me. I can't stand it. I had better get 
medicine and smoke it and so get away from the bad 
business.' Whereas, of course, nobody can destroy a fault 



by killing himself, hesimply leaves it .to his relatives to 
settle. When a man commits suicide, those who wish weep 
for him, but in the old days nobody dreamed of weeping, 
for they said, ' He has wrought malweza.' It is taboo to 
kill oneself. Even for a man to purpose suicide and not 
carry it out is malweza ; one of his relations will suddenly 
die in consequence." 


Prmiedby k. & R. Clakic, Limited, Edinburoh.